To Discern D.C.'s Haves and Have-Nots, Look to the Trees

In Washington D.C., double the amount of residents in affluent areas live among plentiful green spaces. Lessening the disparity will require the cooperation of private property owners, not all of whom see more trees as a good thing.
April 29, 2013, 7am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Annie Gowen and Ted Mellnik examine D.C. tree canopy data compiled by the University of Vermont’s Spatial Analysis Laboratory. They report that, "Nearly 40 percent of residents in low-income areas live in places with fewer trees and more empty spaces. Meanwhile, 80 percent of residents in upper-income areas live in well-planted neighborhoods, according to the Post analysis, which rated neighborhoods on a percentage scale that reflects existing trees and open space that could in theory be planted."

"The city and nonprofit groups have been trying to plant at least 8,600 trees a year in the District in an effort to increase the canopy to 40 percent in the next two decades," add Gowen and Mellnik. "Working with neighbors is becoming more important in preserving the tree canopy, because much of the plantable land left is in private yards rather than in parks and other public spaces."

But getting buy-in from residents in some areas will be a challenge. 

"Doris Gudger of Anacostia is among those who see little to like about lots of trees. When city crews showed up one recent day and planted some in front of her rowhouse in Southeast Washington, she wanted them gone."

"The pollen would aggravate her allergies, she said. The leaves would be a pain to rake. The shade would draw drug dealers. And, she feared, soon would follow affluent gentrifiers and higher taxes, pushing out older residents like herself."

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Published on Thursday, April 25, 2013 in The Washington Post
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