In State College, PA, a town shaped economically and culturally by Penn State University, city staff constantly balance the needs of 12,000 borough residents with the needs of approximately 30,000 Penn State students.
Like many small towns across the US, some of our local parks are badly in need of revitalization. Not only do parks provide restful spots for residents to rejuvenate, but they help clean the air and improve public health.
Trees in urban parks, for example, remove up to 7,111,000 tons of toxins from the air annually at a value of $3.8 billion to cities (City Parks Alliance, 2023).
The Healthy Babies Bright Futures grant gave us an opportunity to plant trees at both Nittany Village Park and South Hills Park. The grant timing dovetailed with ongoing revitalization, making it easy to incorporate sustainable design options into these projects.
Both parks were “in substantial need for rehabilitation,” as our Borough Manager Tom Fountaine likes to say. Six public meetings — three per park — were held with neighboring residents earlier this year. And we spent time this year with both parks, working with the neighborhood around those parks to develop design standards for the parks.
What was our process?
Our arborist, Lance King, led the charge regarding tree selection and tree planting. Tree species—serviceberry, river birch, redbud, dogwood, and red maple—were selected based on site conditions using input resident’s provided at the public meetings. Characteristics like locations within the park, aesthetics, pollinator benefit, shade, and more were used to determine what species was planted where.
The State College Public Works Tree Division planted 31 trees. Tree success, however, heavily depends on long-term tree care. Our team in Public Works is committed to care for the trees in perpetuity. Early this summer, the newly planted trees showed signs of transplant stress, but, at this writing, all trees have rebounded. Overall resident feedback was very positive!
What are our next steps?
We continue to work with local partners to add signage to define the park areas as public spaces, improve trail entrances to define public access points, create walking paths, create a “soothing space for adults and children with autism,” and replace items such as playground equipment, picnic tables, benches, bike racks and garbage cans.
Would your city like to learn more about State College's work? Contact Jasmine Fields, Sustainability Program Officer, at email@example.com.
Is your city interested in being part of Healthy Babies Bright Futures’ Bright Cities program? To discuss this and anything else, please contact Bright Cities Program Director, Kyra Naumoff Shields at firstname.lastname@example.org.