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Easton Receives $1 Million USDA Grant for 'Urban Forest Equity Project' | WDIY Local News

City of Easton, Urban Conservation

New federal funding is coming to Easton to help the city plant more trees, and keep residents cool and healthy.

Easton officials said in a release Tuesday that the city was selected among 385 recipients to receive a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to expand its urban tree canopy and maintain the existing urban forest.

The city’s Department of Community & Economic Development applied for the grant, which was approved by the USDA’s Forest Service.

According to the release, the “Easton Urban Forestry Equity Project” will especially impact underserved areas like the West Ward and parts of the South Side and will result in increased shade. The project includes three main goals.

First, it will expand Easton’s urban canopy by planting more trees in city-owned facilities and parks, holding tree giveaways for residents and nonprofit stewards, and expanding the existing planting program.

Officials said while some parts of the West Ward and Downtown benefit from green spaces, like the Lehigh Canal or Historic Easton Cemetery, other parts of these neighborhoods suffer from poor tree cover. Specifically, they note that Northampton Street in the West Ward is, on average, 10 degrees warmer than the Easton Cemetery.

Additionally, the city said in its grant application that adding 100 new trees would sequester 20 tons of carbon dioxide, remove one-eighth of a ton of pollution from the air, mitigate 75,000 gallons of runoff, raise property values, and generate $20,000 in savings and services to the city, all over the course of 20 years.

Second, the program will maintain the existing urban forest by using grant funding to combat invasive species, trim trees, and remove sick or dead trees.

The city said new tree plantings will follow a “right tree, right place” philosophy to avoid damaging or interfering with the surrounding environment.

Lastly, the city will establish a five-year urban forest apprenticeship, working under Easton’s Conservation Manager, Robert Christopher.

Christopher said that the grant emphasizes Easton’s commitment to climate resiliency and environmental equity, adding that it will create “a monumental shift in our ability to transform areas within the city where we have been struggling to increase the urban canopy and reduce and eliminate hazardous trees.”

The city said its funding allocation was the largest grant amount in the state outside of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Mayor Sal Panto Jr. hailed the federal investment. ““In addition to providing shade in the summer and protection from wintery elements, trees also provide the oxygen that sustains humanity and makes our city more livable,” he said.

“With climate change giving us more severe heat in the summer, we all can appreciate the shade of a healthy tree and the cool breezes they generate.”

The first stages of the program, such as identifying applicable tree locations and bidding tree trimming, removal and stump grinding services, are expected to start in spring 2024. The project is expected to be completed in fall 2028.

(Original air-date: 9/20/23)

Sarit "Siri" Laschinsky was WDIY's News and Public Affairs Director until 2023.
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