Every Neighborhood Should Count
Oftentimes, low-income and communities of color benefit least from green infrastructure and healthy urban forests initiatives. Even when officials begin with the intention to spread benefits across the entire community, many discover that they are unable to deliver on that promise.
In order to ensure that all communities reap equal benefits, create an engagement strategy that begins with identifying target neighborhoods, enlisting community leaders and institutions, educating them about the benefits of trees, and then training them to map and assess their own neighborhood trees. [See Let Residents be Process Owners.]
This process can enable community members to determine their own needs and expectations and then advocate for them effectively in community meetings, public hearings and forums, design charettes, and council deliberations.
At the same time, planners and policy makers must accept these stakeholders as partners in the process, i.e. meeting them on their own turf; accounting for cultural and language differences; opening continuing and consistent lines of communication through the plan’s completion; and soliciting their help to maintain and monitor the health of their neighborhood trees. See how communities in Utah and Washington, DC achieved these goals.
The Community Engagement Guide for Sustainable Communities resource provides an in depth understanding of the importance of equitable community engagement in the planning process. Additionally, the tools below and in the Resource section provide examples of engagement strategies implemented in urban and rural communities nationwide.