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Met Council, cities team up to giveaway trees to plant in your yard

The new Growing Shade tool is an interactive way to show where there is less tree canopy and helps leaders prioritize where to plant trees.

ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. — Friday is Arbor Day, a day dedicated to planting trees. 

Experts are working to plant them across different parts of the metro where they say there are too few trees. And in some cases, they'll plant a tree for free.

Planning organization, Metropolitan Council, says trees provide so many benefits and without them, neighborhoods are hotter and drier. It typically happens in urban places that historically have not been invested in.

"Trees are working very hard for us and we don't often see the interconnections of all they're providing, all the benefits," said Metropolitan Council Planning Analyst Eric Wojchik.

He, along with the National Tree Trust and the Nature Conservancy, helped design the Growing Shade tool to show where tree canopies are too thin due to divestment or disease, like the emerald ash borer infestation.

"It's the first time we've had tree data that's updated constantly because we created this tool using satellite data," said Wojchik.

The data is helping cities prioritize where to plant more trees, like in St. Louis Park. It's the first city to utilize this data and offer trees, sometimes for free, and plant them on people's property to fill any canopy gaps.

"We looked at age, current canopy cover and we looked at race data," said the Natural Resource Manager for the City of St. Louis Park Michael Bahe. "That new data is really going to help us focus our efforts on that."

Hundreds of people already qualify for a tree that were delivered Friday. Some of them can come with a $200.00 price tag — add in planting costs and that can double.

"They need that background data to justify why they're providing incentives in different areas for lower or no cost trees and that's exactly what this tool can do," said Wojchik.

The Metropolitan Council calls it "growing equitable change" one tree at a time. 

"It's important to try and preserve the trees we have and keep on planting for the future," said Bahe.

If you would like to participate in the program in St. Louis Park, type in your address and see whether any discounts apply to your property here

Discounts are available based on location and property owners have to agree the tree will be maintained alive for three years. 

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