Growing Climate Solutions recently partnered with Habitat for Humanity of Collier County, OneTree, and Robbie’s Trees Fund to plant trees in Naples’ Whitaker Woods neighborhood. The initiative will help spread climate-friendly trees and provide shade to affordable housing developments in Southwest Florida.
“Building strong neighborhoods is about more than just infrastructure and simple shelter. We have to plan for the future and how every piece of the neighborhood will grow and change over time,” said Rev. Lisa Lefkow, CEO of Habitat Collier. “These trees will not only help beautify the neighborhood, but ensure greater longevity and lower maintenance requirements for the residents of Whitaker Woods and their homeowner’s association—an important factor when planning an affordable community.”
According to Bridget Washburn, the project manager for Growing Climate Solutions, planting Florida-friendly trees offers the two-fold benefit of mitigating the effects of climate change and providing residents with places to cool off in the shade to preserve public health on hot days.
The event was supported by donations from Robbie’s Trees Fund, Naples Fertilizer, and Cheney Landscaping, as well as by volunteers including County Commissioner Rick LoCastro and future homeowners. Together, volunteers planted 30 Shady Lady black olive trees to shade the sidewalk encircling a 3-acre lake inside Whitaker Woods, a 30-acre Habitat community that features 125 townhomes.
“Reforesting Collier County is one of our key initiatives to tackle local environmental challenges in our ‘Your passion. Your Collier.’ campaign,” said Eileen Connolly-Keesler, Community Foundation of Collier County president and CEO. “We are proud to join with our community partners in this project to improve air quality, provide shade, and support wildlife.”
Inspired by the late Robbie Hutchinson’s wish to “go plant a tree, any tree, anywhere,” Robbie’s Trees Fund is administered by the Community Foundation of Collier County and overseen by close friends Mark Schwab and Cynthia Lynch.
“She was a lifelong enthusiast of protecting the environment,” said Lynch. “Robbie shared her wealth of knowledge on numerous issues, including effects on health, which will forever inspire and motivate us to engage in proactive measures.”
Growing Climate Solutions’ goal for the project is to elevate awareness of important natural assets, like trees, in offsetting the impacts of climate change. While providing cooling shade and native habitat, trees also produce oxygen and remove carbon dioxide and particulate matter from the air, stabilize the soil, and naturally purify water as it filters through root systems. Because cool air settles near the ground, air temperatures directly under trees can be as much as 25°F cooler than air temperatures above nearby blacktop. Using trees as a natural cooling system is a smart and cost-effective way to protect community members. A short educational video about the benefits of trees and tree care will be incorporated to the “curriculum” requirements of future Habitat for Humanity homeowners.