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Get a Free Tree for Earth Day

Take advantage of a city program that creates urban forests

By Noah Harrel

San Diegans can celebrate Earth Day this year by getting a tree planted right outside their own home, at no cost. For years, the city’s Free Tree SD program has allowed residents to enjoy the benefits that come from creating an urban forest, beyond making the neighborhood look nice: energy savings, cleaner air, less stormwater runoff, and higher property values. 

In order to qualify for a free tree, the area must be within San Diego city limits and approved by city arborists. One of those arborists, Brian Widener, says they can’t plant trees just anywhere, and the “street trees” offered through the program must be planted in a space of public right-of-way. Distances from the sidewalk and proximity to other trees, city infrastructure, and fire hydrants are all factors that limit where trees can be planted. Once the area has been approved, a tree will be chosen from the Street Tree Selection Guide based on the local climate and environment. By applying to get a free tree planted, the applicant is responsible for watering it for three years. To help alleviate some of the watering responsibility in the first year, Widener says they usually plant trees during the rainy season. The city also takes care of maintaining the trees with yearly trimmings. 

Widener notes that the city is able to plant around 2,000 trees annually, and encourages everyone who’s eligible to apply for one. In addition to the Free Tree SD program, the city received funding last year to plant nearly 400 trees in communities including Ridgeview, Fairmount Park, Mount Hope, Mountain View, and Lincoln Park. In celebration of Arbor Day this Friday, Mayor Todd Gloria and community leaders will be planting the last of these 400 trees in Mountain View Park. The event can be attended virtually from 8 to 9:15 a.m., and viewers can learn more about care and maintenance of trees.


Residents of San Diego can apply to get a free tree planted outside their home as part of the Free Tree SD program

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