Recent studies have shown San Diego has a serious tree deficit. Trees not only beautify our surroundings, but create cooling shade, provide habitat for native species important for ecological balance, and draw excess carbon dioxide from the air and replace it with oxygen, an essential function in the battle against climate change. 

Forever Balboa Park has worked with the City of San Diego and other partners to plant more than 600 trees in Balboa Park over the past few years as part of a major ongoing urban reforestation initiative. While we are making significant strides in San Diego’s crown jewel, many communities are starting from an even greater tree deficit and disadvantage. 

As revealed in a recent article in The San Diego Union-Tribune, tree inventory data shows a clear disparity between area neighborhoods with higher incomes and majority White demographics and lower income areas where the majority of the population is non-White. These low-income neighborhoods with sparser trees are generally the same areas that were subjected to discriminatory redlining practices in the mid-20th century. 

Our annual Plant It Forward event is about inspiring individuals to heed the example of Kate Sessions, the “Mother of Balboa Park,” and bring more trees and plants into public spaces and the communities where they live. We invite you to help us celebrate Kate Sessions’s legacy by joining us in this planet-saving endeavor in whatever manner best suits you. 

Here are five ways you can improve tree equity in San Diego:

1. Plant a Tree

A primary goal of Plant It Forward is to teach everyone the proper techniques of tree planting, the best tree species to plant for our region, and how to properly care for and maintain trees you plant as well as existing trees you can take care of. We’ve created instructions and videos to help you become a tree steward at home and in your community. 

2. Join the Forever Balboa Park Volunteer Corps

One of the best ways to bring nature back into your own community is through the expert training and hands-on experience you receive when volunteering as a Balboa Park Tree Steward, Garden Steward, and Rose Garden volunteer. Reinforcing what you learn through regular practice enhances your ability to teach and inspire others in your neighborhood. 

3. Become an Advocate or Activist

While city officials are working to rectify tree disparities across San Diego neighborhoods, you can remind them of the urgent need for more trees on your particular block by contacting city council members, the mayor, and state representatives. Here are some important links to start making phone calls and writing emails:

4. Support Organizations That Promote Environmental Equity

Many community nonprofits and grassroots organizations are hard at work bridging gaps in environmental and social equity for all San Diegans. Tree San Diego and The San Diego Foundation have been important partners in our reforestation efforts in Balboa Park. We recommend visiting the websites of organizations that interest you to donate or learn how you can take part in their activities. This short list offers a good starting point: 

Casa Familiar
Climate Action Campaign
Environmental Health Coalition
Groundworks San Diego
I Am Green
San Diego 350
San Diego Food System Alliance
San Diego Regional Urban Forests Council
San Diego River Foundation
San Diego Urban Sustainability Coalition
The Greenlining Institute
The San Diego Foundation
Tree San Diego 

5.  Apply for a Grant

Do you already have or wish to start your own program for greening tree-poor neighborhoods? Several local and state organizations may be able to provide grant support. In addition to The San Diego Foundation mentioned above, the SDG&E Environmental Champions grant program has provided major support to tree planting initiatives like Plant It Forward. California ReLeaf is also an important resource for grassroots organizations looking to enhance urban and community forests.