As Denver grows and buildings pop up on seemingly every corner of the city, greenspace is disappearing. The result? More concrete, less shade and rising temperatures.
“Heat islands — dense urban areas that are much warmer than their surroundings — have widened, data shows, with Denver emerging as one of the nation’s most “impervious,” or paved-over, cities,” according to a recent article in the Denver Post.
With climate change making everything worse, the city has begun a $1 million tree-planting initiative. The money funds an effort to plant trees on “public-access” property and parks located downtown and in “low-equity neighborhoods,” notes the Post.
The tree initiative is long overdue; Denver lags far behind other cities. With about 8% of its space devoted to greenspace (trees, grasses and plants), it compares poorly to New York (21%), San Diego (23%), Minneapolis (15%) and Los Angeles (13%).
“This means climate warming hits harder here,” notes the Post. “And Denver has faced rising temperatures, a record 75 days above 90 degrees this year, with projections showing 20 to 35 days a year topping 95 degrees by 2050.”
In recent years, about 6,700 trees per year have been planted. The city aims to “expand Denver’s overall tree canopy” from covering 13% of the city, to 20%.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to throw shade on the idea. The city’s need to acquire space for green initiatives competes against developers looking to use the same space for projects. And even with more greenspace, experts note that it won’t do much for a heating planet. “It is a drop in the bucket,” one ecologist told the Post.
Still, trees can help. “Yes, Denver needs more trees,” city forester Mike Swanson told the Post. He has another solution as well: “[W]e need to stop pouring concrete.”