A new $6.6 million grant award will give an unprecedented boost to San José’s community forest. The funding will help preserve, enhance, and grow the tree canopy along public streets and in a pair of iconic parks. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service recently announced the award as part of a more than $1 billion program to support equitable urban and community forest projects nationwide.
“Every week, volunteers from across the city come together to make San José a cleaner, safer city for everyone – but we can’t do it alone,” said San José Mayor Matt Mahan. “We are thankful to the USDA Forest Service for joining the effort by funding projects that will make our most vulnerable neighborhoods greener and more prepared for the future.”
The grant will be used to catalog, prune, plant, and care for trees along streets and in parks located in neighborhoods identified as “disadvantaged” by the federal government. It will support two distinct, complementary projects:
- The Department of Transportation (DOT) will start by taking an inventory of existing street trees in selected neighborhoods. This will yield an up-to-date count, as well as document the location, size, and health of the existing trees. The inventory will help the City monitor the tree canopy and better understand how to efficiently manage trees citywide. The Department will also prune street trees, at no expense to adjacent property owners and will work with community organizations such as the San Jose Conservation Corps to plant new trees in places where they are missing. The work will serve as on-the-job training for community organizations with employees interested in careers in arboriculture and urban forestry.
- The Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services Department (PRNS) will make Alum Rock Park and Overfelt Gardens Park safer and more resilient through vegetation management and community engagement to decrease the risk of wildfires. Projects include pruning trees, removing dead and invasive trees, and planting native, resilient trees. These efforts will be accomplished through volunteer opportunities, interpretive programming by Park Rangers, and on-the-job training through the City’s Resilience Corps program.
“Protecting the urban forest is a priority for the City and our community. This grant will help us fulfill goals included in the Community Forest Management Plan adopted by the City Council in 2022,” stated City Manager Jennifer Maguire.
The plan included the alarming finding that San José had lost nearly three square miles of tree canopy cover in just six years. Soon after adoption of the plan, DOT hired a new City Forester and began researching funding opportunities. PRNS has also recently devoted more resources to tree management in its parks, many of which act as islands of green among thousands of miles of asphalt and concrete.
“The losses our urban forest has sustained are alarming but reversible, and this funding will help us take a big step in the right direction,” said John Ristow, Director of Transportation. “Together with our community partners, we’re going to start greening our streets, starting in historically underserved communities that need it most.”
“Parks are essential, not only connecting people to nature but improving air quality, controlling stormwater runoff, and offsetting the effects of climate change,” said Jon Cicirelli, Director, Parks, Recreation, and Neighborhood Services. “We’re excited for this opportunity to strengthen Alum Rock Park and Overfelt Gardens Park as natural destinations for recreation in the region.”
More details about the programs will be released once the City has accepted the grant awards and refined the project scopes in coordination with the USDA Forest Service.
Residents can learn more about the challenges San José trees face by reading the Community Forest Management Plan at bit.ly/sj-community-forest.
About the City of San José
With almost one million residents, San José is one of the most diverse large cities in the United States and is Northern California’s largest city and the 12th largest city in the nation. San José’s transformation into a global innovation center has resulted in one of the largest concentrations of technology companies and expertise in the world.
About the Department of Transportation
The San José Department of Transportation (DOT) plans, develops, operates, and maintains transportation facilities, services, and related systems that contribute to the livability and economic health of the city. Our goal is to provide a transportation system that is safe, efficient, and convenient for all modes of transportation, and which supports San José’s livability and economic vitality.
About the Department of Parks, Recreation & Neighborhood Services
The City of San José Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services Department (PRNS) oversees 10 regional parks, 202 neighborhood parks, 293 park playgrounds, 45 community centers, and almost 65 miles of trail. It has one of the most diverse service models of any agency of its type. ActivateSJ, PRNS’ latest strategic work plan, is committed to building healthy communities through people, parks and programs by following five guiding principles to establish healthy communities that inspire belonging. For more information, please visit the ActivateSJ homepage.