San Antonio received the ‘Tree City of the World’ designation

SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department announced that the city will be recognized as a “Tree City of the World.”

San Antonio is the first city in Texas to achieve the feat, according to data from other recognized cities.

The call comes from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the Arbor Day Foundation.

The city has been the “Tree City of the USA” for eight years.

“Becoming a World Tree City demonstrates our dedication to environmental sustainability and highlights the important benefits that trees bring to our city,” said Michael Holinsky, an urban forester with the Parks Department.

The recognition is undoubtedly a positive step for the city to maintain its commitment to environmental sustainability. But what comes from the recognition, and how did San Antonio achieve such esteemed status?

How did San Antonio get its name?

San Antonio meets five of the basic criteria set by the Arbor Day Foundation.

The program was created in 2019 to praise and celebrate the city’s tree population.

  • Establish Responsibility – A dedicated team and staff with the town administration are assigned responsibilities for tree management and conservation. The partnership ensures a coordinated and effective approach to tree care and preservation.

  • Set the Rules – The city has implemented comprehensive tree policies and regulations that protect the urban tree canopy while providing guidelines for tree protection and maintenance.

  • Know What You Have – Necessary steps are taken by the city to make a detailed inventory of trees. This work allows the city to track tree health, growth and needs, ensuring an informed decision-making process for effective management and preservation.

  • Allocate Resources – Much needed resources are allocated to support planting, maintenance and education programs. This helps demonstrate the city’s commitment to sustainable urban forestry.

  • Celebrating Achievements – San Antonio celebrates and demonstrates a collective commitment to developing a greener and more sustainable community through free annual events.

Tree density in San Antonio

While the award is commendable considering the projects currently underway, such as the soon-to-be-developed Arboretum San Antonio on the Southeast Side, the unevenness of the tree canopy is an issue that has long been a concern of residents.

Many comments on the City of San Antonio’s Instagram post acknowledging the achievement called the timing “ironic.”

“Is this a joke?” a user wrote. “It’s really funny because the city is constantly destroying natural habitats and cutting down old trees despite a huge outcry from hundreds of residents.”

Another user mentioned the ongoing battle over sacred heritage trees in Brackenridge Park.

“Aren’t you trying to cut down important, sacred trees in Brackenridge park?” the user wrote.

In April, the Texas Historical Commission voted to approve permits for the removal of trees in the park.

The map under “tree canopy” from the city’s climate initiative page shows the tree canopy in San Antonio using 2014 National Agriculture Imagery Program data.

Additionally, according to the website, San Antonio “targets that 40% of our city will be covered by tree canopy by 2040.” A graph on the page shows that the city is currently at 30% of its goal.

An additional map page shows a graph that shows a map of the city and the areas of the highest and lowest shade needs. The areas listed as “highest need” are large parts of the West Side, East Side and parts of the South Side.

One way the city aims to combat these inequities in tree coverage is through its EquiTree Program.

The city is offering residents of neighborhoods — which are lower income and located in high-need sections of the city — free 30-gallon trees. The website states that planting is coordinated with external vendor(s).

Residents are notified of goodwill opportunities on a bilingual door hanger, which residents can fill out to request a tree.

According to the website, the Parks and Recreation Department is “invested in increasing the use of its equity tree program.”

The public is encouraged to participate in several free annual events to strengthen San Antonio’s tree trunk.

Día del Árbol takes place from 9 a.m. to noon on November 4 at the Mission Marquee Plaza. While supplies last, over 700 plants in one gallon buckets will be given away to the public for free.

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