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“Denver Wants to Fix a Legacy of Environmental Racism”

“Historically, trees and city parks in America go to wealthy, white neighborhoods. Now, a program in Colorado’s capital is trying to correct that injustice.”

“DENVER — In most American cities, white residents live near parks, trees and baseball fields, while communities of color are left with concrete and the heat that comes with it. Now, in a push that could provide a road map for other cities, officials in Denver are working to rectify that historical inequity.

The effort, one of a handful around the country, has been bolstered by an environmental tax that added tens of millions of dollars to the city budget. It involves purchasing land for new parks, repairing derelict playgrounds, adding recreation centers and planting trees in areas where shade is sparse.

Correcting decades of discriminatory municipal planning is especially important as climate change heats up American cities. Adding green space, researchers have found, can help residents cope with rising heat and brings all sorts of side benefits, like filtering air pollution or boosting residents’ mental health.

“Trees are a lifesaving device in cities, especially in a warming climate,” said Jad Daley, president of American Forests, a nonprofit conservation group. “It’s a moral imperative that every neighborhood has them.””

Veronica Penney reports for the New York Times September 30, 2020.