CHICAGO — Residents have until Monday to apply for a chance to beautify their street, freshen their air, lower their energy bills and deter crime on their block — all for free.
Those are some of the benefits touted by the nonprofit forestry group Openlands, which is accepting applications for the spring wave of its biannual TreePlanters Grants. Prospective arborists can apply individually or with their communities for a cluster of up to 50 trees wherever they live.
The applicant must identify locations for at least 10 plants on public land, all within two blocks of one another, and round up volunteers to help plant the trees.
Openlands will host three community events for each location, leading up to a four-hour planting session in April or May, when foresters will coach residents on how to keep the trees alive and growing.
Among the most popular sites for new trees are the parkways between streets and their sidewalks, according to Daniella Pereira, Openlands' director of regional forestry.
"It's not like it's going in a park or a big public space," Pereira said. "You're going to see this tree every day, and we'll show you how to care for it."
Foresters often tout the broad rewards of greening urban spaces, from cleaning the air to improving storm drainage. But they can help neighborhoods on a more granular level too, Pereira said.
"The shade they provide helps reduce heat, which gets otherwise gets absorbed into impervious surfaces" like concrete in the summer, she said. "That reduces the amount of energy homes end up having to use."
Studies have even suggested that greener blocks see less crime, because they're a sign of community upkeep and "more eyes on the street," Pereira said.
Openlands plants between 300 and 500 trees around the city every year.
The Far Northwest Side already is the home of some of the city's leafiest neighborhoods, although the Far South Side is a close contender.
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