Tucson’s 1 million trees by 2030 goal getting community boost

By Alli Burgess El Inde Arizona

Noah Sagar, a junior at University High School, (right) attends planting events every weekend with his friend, Malak Elfarmaoui, also a UHS junior. Alli Burgess, El Inde Arizona

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero is on a mission to plant a million trees in Tucson by 2030 as part of a global initiative to plant a trillion trees worldwide.

“We have raised over $700,000 in private donations helping us get closer to our goal of planting 1 million trees by 2030,” Romero said in a written statement.

But three years in, Romero’s Tucson Million Trees effort has only seen about 100,000 trees go into the ground, according to city officials.

At that rate, the city could be looking at needing at least another 20 years to meet Romero’s goal, but one Tucson group is hoping its grassroots efforts will help.

On Saturday mornings, groups of volunteers with Tucson Clean & Beautiful set out in neighborhoods around the community to plant as many as 100 trees a week as part of its partnership with the city.

The non-profit environmental advocacy group, whose mission is to create more livable outdoor community spaces, and its volunteers plant trees weekly from October through March.

Late last month the volunteers set out for the Sugar Hill neighborhood to plant trees in the yards of family homes.

More than 30 volunteers gathered near Mansfield Pool to head out into the community, shovels in gloved hands.

Noah Sagar, a junior at University High School, is a youth leader with the group and attends the planting events every weekend with his friend, Malak Elfarmaoui, also a University High School junior.

“Growing up, I lived in a neighborhood that didn’t have a lot of tree cover, so it was really important for me to not have other kids in Tucson have that same experience,” said Sagar.

Malak Elfarmaoui, a junior at University High School, starts digging a hole at a family home in the Sugar Hill neighborhood while her classmate Noah Sagar stands by to help. The pair were among 30 volunteers on Saturday, Jan. 28, with Tucson Clean and Beautiful’s weekly tree-planting project. Alli Burgess, El Inde Arizona

“We look for any opportunity we can to reach out to the community and see if we can plant, especially in areas where there’s low shade,” said Lana Greene, an intern with Romero’s Tucson Million Trees.

Tucson Million Trees focuses its plantings on “low-income, low-shade and high-heat density neighborhoods,” said Greene.

The Tucson Clean & Beautiful plantings run from 9 to 11 a.m. on Saturdays and each week, the group focuses on a new neighborhood, planting trees in the yards of family homes.

They usually plant three trees at each household, aiming for about 100 trees per week.

“I am grateful to our private donors and the team at Tucson Clean & Beautiful who continue to be amazing partners on the ground for us,” Romero said.

Michael Morris, a local radio host for The Drive KDRI, participated in his first tree-planting on that late January day.

Morris said he wishes he would have gotten involved sooner.

“The neighbors were really nice, some of the neighbors that actually saw us walking down the streets thanked us,” he said.

People of all ages are encouraged to volunteer. Go to tucsoncleanandbeautiful.org to learn more about Tucson Clean and Beautiful.

Get involved
To volunteer with Tucson Clean and Beautiful’s tree planting campaign, visit tucsoncleanandbeautiful.org. All ages are welcome and volunteers are encouraged to wear long pants, long sleeves, a hat and closed-toe shoes. Make sure to bring a water bottle and sunscreen; garden gloves and tools are provided.
Groups interested in participating or to set up a tree project, visit tucsoncleanandbeautiful.org.
Tucson Clean and Beautiful also accepts cash donations to purchase trees. Call 520-837-6380 for information.
Tucson Clean and Beautiful is going out every Saturday through March with dozens of volunteers to plant trees in neighborhoods around Tucson. It’s part of Tucson Mayor Regina Romero’s plan to plant 1 million trees in Tucson by 2030. Alli Burgess, El Inde Arizona

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