TreeRx: Prescribing Urban Trees for a Healthy Community Environment

We all know trees can cure a number of our societal ills – from filtering out air pollutants, to holding down hot summer temperatures, controlling flooding and creating beautiful neighborhoods promoting outdoor activities. However, rarely do we try to directly apply these benefits towards the fixing problems in our community. TreeRx is an attempt to plan for the planting and maintenance of trees in those places where our community needs them most. Not only does it prescribe those trees, but TreeRx extends the right tree, right place methodology to ensure trees can both survive in that available environment, and that the selected species of trees are the best to correct specific health, environmental and aesthetic problems.

TreeRx is an urban forestry plan. Urban forestry plans map out the development and maintenance of the urban forest, in an effort to optimize the resulting benefits in social, environmental, public health, economic, and aesthetic terms. In this case the target neighborhoods are the communities of Springfield and Eastside in Jacksonville’s Urban Core. The study is being instituted by students at the University of North Florida through their Environmental Leadership Program. They are supported by partners at Groundwork Jacksonville, North Florida Land Trust, Greenscape and an advisory committee of local community members, foresters, health planners, scenic advocates and landscape architects.

The final TreeRx product will consist of a map of our target area identifying areas with “tree need” and what those tree needs may be. It will also provide a tree guide, identifying which problems certain species of tree may be helpful in solving. For example, it may identify an area as having problems with air pollution from heavy truck traffic on a nearby road. It will also provide the information for a tree planting organization to know that trees such as Tulip Poplar, which is excellent at filtering Ozone and Carbon Monoxide, and Black Walnut, which is effective at filtering fine particulate matter and sulfur dioxide, might be ideal trees to counter the air pollution problem the neighborhood is having. In another part of the community which has problems with toxic soils, aka “brownfields,” willow trees may assist in removing those toxins from the soil. TreeRx will also include suggestions for the maintenance and care of trees, and appropriate placement of trees depending on their potential location.

In this way TreeRx plan will allow us to use trees to create a healthier community. The final plan is expected to be completed in the fall of 2016 for the use of tree-planting, community health, beautification organizations and the residents of Springfield and Eastside to start bettering their community.