Beating the heat – with trees? Miami-Dade starts planting in local park

More trees means 'improving air quality, reducing the urban heat island effect, and mitigating flooding,' says Miami-Dade County Commissioner Eileen Higgins.

Aerial view of palm trees framing the city skyline on October 27, 2021 in Miami.

Aerial view of palm trees framing the city skyline on October 27, 2021 in Miami. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Miami-Dade thinks that it shall never see urban planning lovely as a tree. 

Hot on the release of the county’s Extreme Heat Action Plan, which proposes increasing the urban canopy from about 20% to 30%, Miami-Dade’s Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department has partnered with One Tree Planted, a reforestation nonprofit, to plant more than 450 trees at Amelia Earhart Park in 2023.

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The plantings are being led by Neat Streets Miami-Dade’s Million Trees initiative. The effort will take place in three phases and the goal will be to increase the canopy in Miami-Dade neighborhoods with the highest need of reducing ambient temperatures.

Miami-Dade County Commissioner Eileen Higgins, chair of Neat Streets Miami-Dade, says a 2020 “Urban Tree Canopy Assessment” done by the county “shined a spotlight on our lowest tree canopy disparities. This (project will) enhance the quality of life for residents by … improving air quality, reducing the urban heat island effect, and mitigating flooding.”

As Miami Chief Heat Officer Jane Gilbert previously told City & State, a lack of trees means a lack of shade, which creates what are known as “urban heat islands.” Moreover, “extreme heat is a silent killer and more people are dying and suffering from heat-related problems. … Over the past 20 years, about 160,000 people have died worldwide because of heat.”

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Amelia Earhart Park is a 515-acre park in between Hialeah, Miami Lakes and Opa-locka, which have some of Miami-Dade’s smallest amount of urban canopy. It’s one of 27 projects that One Tree Planted is providing support for throughout the United States as part of their recently launched Urban Forestry Action Fund. 

This is a portfolio of high impact urban forestry projects designed to plant urban trees to address environmental issues such as air pollution and a lack of community green spaces.

“Building a robust urban tree canopy is essential for improving the quality of life for all Miami-Dade County residents,” says Gabriela Lopez, Miami-Dade Parks’ Community Forestry and Beautification manager. 

Also, Miami-Dade has begun retrofitting most public housing units with efficient air conditioning. 

As Gilbert said, “Our goals are to collectively inform and protect people, make it easier for residents to cool their homes affordably and to cool our neighborhoods, especially with trees where we need them the most.”

David Volz has been a reporter for numerous community news publications throughout South Florida over the past two decades, as well as the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and South Florida Business Journal. He covers city government, schools, sports, culture, faith groups and workplaces.

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