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How trees help Lower Price Hill residents branch out into jobs, climate action

Groundwork Ohio River Valley

Trees are providing shade and jobs for some Lower Price Hill residents this summer. Nonprofit Groundwork Ohio River Valley employs people to take care of 77 young trees, located on the streets around Oyler School, along State Avenue, and throughout the neighborhood’s southern residential core.

Just a few years old, they are growing well. The trees are leafing out, providing small swatches of shade on sidewalks that used to be tree-less.

“The trees are a vehicle for so much more once they're planted,” said Tanner Yess, executive director of Groundwork Ohio River Valley. “We talked about the stormwater, the temperature and the air quality benefits with the tree. The tree is also a workforce vehicle; the tree is also community pride and an aesthetic vehicle.”

Trees provide changes that 'stick' around

Lower Price Hill has one of the smallest tree canopies in Cincinnati — approximately 6% of the neighborhood is covered by trees, according to the 2021 Cincinnati Climate Equity Indicators Report. Redlining and the Mill Creek Valley’s industrial history contributed to those conditions.

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Three years ago, Lower Price Hill residents, nonprofits Groundwork Ohio River Valley and Green Umbrella and Cincinnati’s Office of Environment and Sustainability set out to change that. Through the Climate Safe Neighborhoods planning process, the participants developed climate change adaptation strategies to implement in Lower Price Hill.

Trees were one of the first suggestions to emerge, Yess said.

When neighborhoods plant trees, they become more resilient to heat waves and see lessened effects of air pollution, according to a 2023 Yale Climate Connections article. Trees can also reduce residential energy costs.

In November 2022, hundreds of community members, Groundwork staff, Cincinnati Parks staff and volunteers from MadTree Brewing planted 77 trees throughout Lower Price Hill. The trees were one- to two-caliper, or between eight- to 14-feet tall.

Then, residents adopted and named the trees.

Through Groundwork's Tree Ambassador program, community members are employed to take care of the trees.

“They look out for the trees day-to-day and water them 20 gallons a week — every week during the hot months," Yess said. "They're paid monthly to do that. It's kind of eyes on the street, eyes on the tree.”

The community and its trees provide mutual benefit for each other.

“It's not just about the carbon and the climate resilience,” Yess said. “It's seeing yourself in nature and understanding it, and therefore you care about it afterwards.”

Ninety percent of the trees planted in 2022 have survived. The ones that died were replanted.

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Today the trees are big enough to create some shade, but Yess said they’re still small for street trees.

“It'll be a few years before you see big, shaded areas around the sidewalks and the boulevards and the streets,” Yess said.

Groundwork has helped with similar tree planting and maintenance initiatives in Roselawn and Bond Hill, and are prepared to carry out another in Avondale this October.

Isabel joined WVXU in 2024 to cover the environment.