The Park People, a nonprofit organization in Denver, focuses on working with communities to plant trees and improve parks for a healthy, resilient future. Kim Yuan-Farrell is the Executive Director of The Park People organization, and she shares the importance of their work.
The Park People’s Work
“We were founded 54 years ago by a bunch of Denver residents who could see that Denver’s parks and open spaces didn’t have all of the funding and support that was needed to really maintain them,” Yuan-Farrell says. “So they started banding together to raise money for park improvement projects. Our work is on the park’s front, but [it’s] really about supporting the livability and the resiliency of our community through our green spaces.”
This organization has several ongoing programs that are restoring and reviving our beautiful city. One of the largest programs is Denver Digs Trees, which has provided Denver residents with over 60,000 free and low-cost trees over the last 35 years.
“[Denver Digs Trees] is how we show up in every Denver neighborhood, every single year,” Yuan-Farrell says. “We have a spring tree distribution in which we provide between 1,000 to 2,000 free and affordable trees to Denver residents. We provide street and yard trees,
and it’s all about empowering residents to engage and become active stewards of the urban environment.”
The Importance of Trees
Trees play a vital role in our cities, from filtering out air pollutants and slowing down the flow of rainfall water to supporting our urban wildlife and pollinators.
Throughout the streets and neighborhoods of Denver, some communities have little to no tree canopy cover, which is impacting their natural environment and health.
“In our cities that are filled with pavement and concrete, tree service plays a really important role in helping to shade and cool our neighborhoods,” Yuan-Farrell says. “Those neighborhoods where there’s very little tree cover get really hot. You see a 15- to 20-degree difference between a shaded street and one that doesn’t have shade cover.”
Not only is an area without trees unpleasant to look at, but the temperature difference is really significant to the point that people who live in these areas spend less time outdoors and aren’t as physically active because their environment is not welcoming, Yuan-Farrell says.
Besides the ecological benefits, there is research to support the social, mental, and physical benefits trees provide. Yuan-Farrell says viewing and interacting with natural elements helps to restore our cognitive function.
Ways to Get Involved
Our man-made society has physically altered the natural world by burning fossil fuels, deforestation, overpopulation, and other unnatural practices and materials. Yuan-Farrell mentions that children now have grown up with much more information on climate change than any other generation before.
“I have a 10-year old and an almost eight-year old. My 10-year old already feels bits and pieces of the climate anxiety that some young people and adults feel,” Yuan-Farrell says. “Kids are becoming aware of these issues, and climate change is a big daunting one that can feel overwhelming.”
According to Business Today Organization, “100 companies are responsible for 71 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions since 1988, with ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, and Chevron holding the top slots for investor-owned companies emitting harmful gasses.”
Planting trees and improving the quality of neighborhoods isn’t going to stop the changing climate, but it’s a step in the right direction,
and it can give children and adults an outlet to take action.
If climate change is overwhelming and you’re discouraged or worried, hop online to The Park People’s website to volunteer or find other ways to get involved.