A group planting trees in a residential area.
Green Heart Louisville Volunteers for Louisville Grows plant trees and shrubs for the Green Heart Louisville project. © Randy Olson

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Green Heart Louisville Grants $250,000 to Louisville Grows

Grant will support first-of-its-kind urban health project.

Louisville, KY

The Green Heart Louisville project recently made a $250,000 grant to Louisville Grows, a community nonprofit that focuses on repairing the urban tree canopy.

The Nature Conservancy, the University of Louisville’s Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute, and several other organizations are partnering on this first-of-its-kind scientific study into the human health benefits of urban greening. The five-year study has enrolled approximately 700 participants from a south Louisville study area. The Envirome Institute will monitor participant health before and after the planting of thousands of trees by The Nature Conservancy and its partners. Louisville Grows has partnered with the Conservancy and the Envirome Institute to engage the community in the project, conduct volunteer tree plantings, and assist with contracted plantings of larger trees.

“Louisville Grows has been working for many years to support Louisville’s tree canopy in neighborhoods of the most need—the environmentally overburdened neighborhoods that have received the least investment,” said Chris Chandler, urban conservation program director for the Conservancy. “To have a partnership with Louisville Grows means a lot, because they have a lot of hard-earned credibility. They have built trust with their model and the community.”

Louisville Grows has partnered with the Conservancy and the Envirome Institute to treat ash trees in the project area for the invasive emerald ash borer. The nonprofit also has canvassed the Green Heart study area to identify residents willing to receive new trees and participate in the study.

“To conduct our research to scientifically document the effects of an urban tree canopy on human health, we must engage individuals in the community to both participate in our health research and to allow planting on their property,” said Aruni Bhatnagar, Ph.D., director of the Envirome Institute. “We could not do this work without the grassroots work of Louisville Grows. We hope this grant will support their valuable work to improve health and quality of life in our city.”

Louisville Grows has been able to hire three new paid positions as a result of the grant, doubling the size of their paid staff. The organization trains “community foresters,” volunteers who learn to plant and care for trees as well as engage the community in plantings.

“We have worked with neighborhood associations for outreach and we actually go door to door to canvas the planting areas,” said Ked Stanfield, director of Louisville Grows. “The grant is a secure source of revenue that is in line with our mission. It’s allowing us to build our capacity as an organization.”

Chandler says there are 10,000 houses in the Green Heart study area targeted for greening, and the residents in each home need to be engaged at least three times each. Engagement includes an assessment of what types of trees are best for the property.

“This is a grant that allows Louisville Grows to bring on more team members, train more volunteers, and engage more citizens to build the tree canopy,” Chandler said. “They’ll be spending a lot of time in the Green Heart project neighborhoods over the next 18 months, knocking on doors and recruiting residents to receive trees.”

Stanfield says the partnership is ideal because it pairs a global organization with a local grassroots group.

“The Conservancy is a big organization that works at a large scale all over the world,” said Stanfield. “It would be difficult for the Conservancy to implement this project without community-based organizations that are deeply involved locally. We have the name recognition, we only work here in Louisville, and we can help this big project get a foot in the door with the community.”

In return, Chandler says the Conservancy is lending a more rigorous approach to the way Louisville Grows does business.

“We’re adding new rigor and science to how they operationalize and in return they’re teaching us how to be a better partner with these neighborhoods,” said Chandler. “I feel honored that they’re partnering with us. It takes strong partnerships to pull off greening at a scale that has not been seen before.”  

For more information on the Green Heart Louisville project, go to https://greenheartlouisville.com. South Louisville residents can check to see if they are in the study area and request trees by going to https://greenheartloustudy.com/greener.  

About Louisville Grows and the Envirome Institute

Louisville Grows is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization sited in the Portland neighborhood and working throughout Jefferson County. Their main programs are urban forestry and urban agriculture. The organization focuses on repairing the urban tree canopy. Learn more at http://www.louisvillegrows.org or follow Louisville Grows on Facebook. The Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute’s research unites a multidisciplinary group to turn scientific discovery into actionable knowledge that can help us to build healthier cities. Learn more at http://www.enviromeinstitute.com or follow the Envirome Institute on Facebook. 

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 79 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.