Last summer, in advance of the fall tree planting season, the City of Burien launched a matching fund program to support community-led tree planting or maintenance projects. The City offered to pay up to $5,000 per project. Community members were required to match the City’s contribution with local resources of volunteer labor.
City staff looked for projects that fostered a sense of community and increased neighborhood tree canopy cover in an equitable manner. Project applications were evaluated on the quality of the project, neighborhood participation, visibility, and benefit to the public. Projects were required to be in areas either in need of trees, or with a low tree equity score, a calculation that combines data on metrics such as community health, income, neighborhood surface temperature, and existing tree canopy.
“The Burien City Council set an ambitious goal to increase our tree canopy cover to 40% by 2038,” said Adolfo Bailon, Burien City Manager. “To reach that goal, we need all of Burien to contribute by protecting and increasing our tree canopy. This fund supports community efforts to grow our urban forest.”
Two projects were selected to receive funding, with leftover grant funding applied to City-led tree canopy projects. Both community projects involved planting not just trees, but also understory native plant species.
Big Picture and Choice Academy Tree Planting Project
Big Picture is one of several Highline Public Schools “schools of choice”. The school campus is located near SeaTac Airport in the Manhattan neighborhood, which has a tree equity score of 70.
A student group from Highline’s Big Picture School was awarded funding to continue a planting project that began in 2020 as part of a tree canopy improvement grant from the Washington Department of Natural Resources, administered by the local nonprofit Forterra, and implemented by students of the Waskowitz Environmental Leadership and Service (WELS) program.
In February, the students planted 277 native shrubs and trees. Saskatoon serviceberry, beaked hazelnut, wild strawberry, black hawthorn, Salal, western crabapple, Garry oak, flowering currant, thimbleberry, and salmonberry were some of the edible native plants installed on the Woodside campus near the Highline Area Food Bank.
Seahurst Neighbors Tree Project
A group of Burien residents applied for funding to plant in an unimproved right of way. This involved hand pulling noxious ivy and replanting with native sword fern and rhododendrons. The understory planting will help the existing overstory trees, improve slope stability, and provide additional benefits for stormwater and wildlife.