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Why Trees Are So Valuable for the Health and Wealth of Historic Oliver

No matter what side of the fence you are on, for trees or against, the issue of trees may trigger strong feelings on either side - both sides have valid reasons for where they stand. Those who argue against trees usually worry about tree roots getting into their pipes and damaging their properties. They worry about overgrown tree pits that catch trash and become unsightly and require a lot of maintenance. All of those concerns are valid, but do, the benefits outweigh the risks? In 2005, when I purchased my home here in Historic Oliver, I had a job where I traveled to various sites around the country. I remember a site that I was assigned to in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. While walking through the neighborhood that I had the pleasure of staying in for a few days, I fell in love with the architecture, and was captivated by the beautiful trees that framed the streets and adorned the picturesque houses on the block.

North Broadway - Historic Oliver Community
1200 block of North Broadway - Historic Oliver, 2022

I remember thinking, "wow, the architecture of the homes on this street are very similar to the houses in the community of my newly purchased home" my community could be just as beautiful, if not for the boarded up homes that lined my street at the time. But it was something less obvious than that, something that I did not notice right away. In that moment, I had an epiphany. I realized something I had not realized before; Historic Oliver was missing something that this wealthy community had an abundance of - trees. Why was that? Something that was not so obvious to me at first, became extremely obvious, and then a bit blatant. When I would think of these two communities side by side, it became abundantly clear to me that the poorer communities were lacking something as basic as trees. Even the excessively wealthier communities would not be as beautiful without their tree-lined streets. Trees are to a neighborhood, as a necklace is to a pretty dress - the dress is pretty, but without a necklace, it is just blah. However, trees are more than just mere ornamental accessories strategically placed to please the eye; they are especially valuable to a community because of what they provide, well beyond their beauty.

Trees provide shade that make a leisurely walk more tolerable on a hot, sunny and humid day, like we have been experiencing a lot lately. They attract birds that make those beautiful chirping noises, cool the neighborhood, and make our homes cooler, which essentially lowers our heating and cooling bill.
Historic Oliver Community - North Broadway, 2007
1200 block of North Broadway - Historic Oliver, 2007

What I later learned was that the lack of trees in predominately black and poor neighborhoods was not by happenstance, but was the result of years of redlining practices, and due to the disinvestment in these neighborhoods. According to this NY Times article, Black and Hispanic neighborhoods consistently have fewer trees today, due to those historically racist practices. Having less trees exposes more asphalt. The asphalt absorbs the heat and that heat is then radiated back into the atmosphere, making it even hotter - up to 12 degrees hotter than in communities with more trees!

Oliver tree map
Tree installed in Historic Oliver between 2017 and 2020

Since 2017, Historic Oliver has been steadily growing her tree canopy, Adding over 300 trees and growing!


(click to view interactive map to see how many trees have been installed in Historic Oliver between 2017 and 2020)

Question: When is the best time to plant a tree?

Answer: Twenty years ago!

Bethel Playscape - Oliver Community Baltimore
Trees at Oliver's Bethel Playscape

Trees provide shade that make a leisurely walk more tolerable on a hot, sunny and humid day, like we have been experiencing a lot lately. They attract birds that make those beautiful chirping noises, cool the neighborhood, and make our homes cooler, which essentially lowers our heating and cooling bill. Additionally, trees clean pollution from the air and reduce ER visits from heat related emergencies, including asthma and heat stroke. There are even studies that show that trees may help to reduce crime. A bonus is that trees increase property values which equates to your increased net worth.


How many trees are on your block? Have you noticed that some blocks are cooler than others? Do you see a relationship between the blocks in Historic Oliver that have trees and how hot or cool it is on that block?


Do you notice any other differences on the blocks that have trees versus the ones that do not? Do the pros outweigh the cons of having more trees in our community?


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