The Neighborhood
Homestories Archives

Neighbors Pay it Forward - with the Street Tree Project

by Salley Trefethen

To be a shade tree planter, you’ve got to have a vision for your loved ones and those who come after you.

Dr. Dennis Swanberg

100 years ago, 50 years ago, 25 years ago someone living in Huning Highlands planted a tree. Not just in their yard, but in the parkway (between the sidewalk and street) in front of their house—a tree intended to be shared with everyone walking or driving our streets. As with raising a child, they watered and cared for it its first few years until it was strong enough to grow on its own. Those trees repaid the neighborhood with shade, beauty, lower utility bills, and added value to the homeowner (10-20%), the neighborhood, and the city. Their beauty continues to revitalize our homes and captivate our hearts. They lured us to live and thrive here.

Neighborhood Street with Healthy CanopyNeighborhood Street with Lost Trees









As with all things in life, our predecessors’ legacy of street trees is gradually dying off.  One can see, on any of our streets, how few of the large trees remain. It’s time for us to continue the legacy. It’s time to pay it forward.

Isaac Benton, City CouncilorRick Miera, State RepresentativeJoran Viers, City ForesterDavid Day, an Urban Designer, Intern Architect, and new addition to our neighborhood, has crafted a plan to re-tree the area.  Over the last year, he and many neighbors mapped every street tree, noting its placement, size, health, and species.  This resulted in a plan showing where trees are needed, what kind of trees, and when we need to plant them. The plan helped rally the support and funding from our City Councilor Isaac Benton, State Representative Rick Miera, and City Forester Joran Viers. Isaac Benton and Rick Miera have provided $25,000 each for the first phase of planting. From November through February, prime time for planting new trees, neighborhood volunteers will prepare parkways to get ready for 180 to 200 new trees. City Forester Joran Viers will oversee a Landscape Contractor who will buy trees and plant them.

Now it’s up to the neighborhood. Here’s what you can do to help pay it forward.

City and Neighborhood Leaders Plant the First TreeYour first step is to adopt a tree (or trees). (If you are a renter, talk to your landlord or to David Day.

If your house is one of those gaining a new tree(s) filll out the the ABQ Tree Program Agreement form found here and on the HHHDA website at Remember, adopting is a promise. A promise to care for the tree until it gets established.

Click here to download the form.

Drop off the form at the dropbox at the Preservation Station (corner of Walter and Coal) or mail it to HHHDA, 522 Edith Blvd. S.E., ABQ, NM, 87102 OR scan and email it to (our webmaster).

Don’t wait. Adoption forms need to be returned by December 15.

For a full description of the plan, keep reading.


The Tree Project—A Historical Perspective

by David Day

I. Origins

It made both national and local news reports in 2012 that the urban tree canopy in our city is suffering. We have lost over 20% of our trees which should be of great concern to every citizen, neighborhood, and property owner. Each street or yard tree improves property values, lowers utility bills, increases health, and contributes to the beautification of our district and city. 

David Day initiated the project in 2010 when he and Fernando Delgado purchased a home in the neighborhood.  The deteriorated condition of our neighborhood tree canopy (trees in the public parkway strip between sidewalk and curb) caused great concern.  A tree canopy is an essential part of any neighborhood, but especially for a historic district such as Huning Highlands.  David, an Urban Designer and Intern Architect (Terra Designs LLC) and a group of neighbors are producing an urban design Landscape Plan to restore our aging tree canopy.  Now we need everyone's assistance in accepting and caring for the first wave of free trees.  A full list of volunteers, specialists, and donors will follow on this web page and in the final Report.

II. Existing Conditions

Step 1 focused on mapping all existing street trees in the entire Neighborhood Association boundary (48 blocks and 174 acres ! ).  Over the course of a year, many neighborhood volunteers helped map each and every tree, noting its placement, size, health, and species.  The information was noted on maps and spreadsheets which, after compiling, was mapped on a comprehensive Site Plan of the neighborhood.

III. Plan

Step 2 updated the Site Plan to show where new trees will be planted.  The Landscape design provides each street with 1 tree species along the entire length of the street in order to yield a consistent look and effective overhead shade canopy (Edith = 1 species, Walter = 1 species, etc.).  Each street will receive a different tree species for visual diversity and biodiversity - critical for the health of trees, insects, and environment.  The North-South axis streets will receive shade trees, and the East-West axis streets will receive flowering and more ornamental trees.

The Site Plan shows phases of work, which areas will receive trees with each funding event.

The Site Plan, database, and tree species list will be compiled into a report.  This will allow us to present a unified and holistic vision which will be used to market ourselves and secure additional funding in the future. The Report will also lay out, explicitly and consistently, subsequent phases of work.   The Report will also list all volunteers, specialists, and donors to the project.

IV. Implementation

Step 3 is the Tree Program campaign, which is currently under way.  In November and December, you will find posters, signs, and flyers with the "I Love Huning Highlands" theme everywhere in the neighborhood and at your door. 

Planting strips in areas to receive the new trees will be prepared by a team of volunteers.  Residents receiving the trees will deep water the trees (1x/month in winter, 1x/week in summer) to ensure success.  City Forester Joran Viers will manage the project, overseeing a Landscape Contractor who will buy trees, dig the holes, and place the trees.

V. Funding

Phase 1  This has already occurred, and involved a $4000 Bernalillo County Neighborhood Grant.  The grant was secured and administered by neighbors Greg Bloom and Elaine McGivern.  Take a walk along Lead and Coal to see the beautiful trees added to the street improvements, some of which are a result of this grant.  Bernadette Miera was the County Manager of the project.

Phase 2  This is the current Phase. City Councilor (District 2) Ike Benton and State Representative (District 11) Rick Miera secured funding for Huning Highlands in 2014 to the tune of $ 50,000.  $25,000 comes from Councilor Benton's 'set-aside' monies available to each council district for improvements, and $25,000 comes from Representative Miera.  This will provide approximately 180 to 200 trees for the core area of Huning Highlands.

Rebates:  Electrical and Water Company rebates for residents who plant the trees are being researched. 

VI. Benefits

Property Value A 10 to 20% increase in property value for 'curb appeal and for more liveable yard, street.

Civic Pride  Restoring the historic shade tree canopy will improve the Huning Highlands Historic District visually, financially, and aesthetically.  Street trees are one of the most important components of any neighborhood, and especially for a historic district.

Energy  Tree canopy shade lowers heat island effect in neighborhood - shading yards, sidewalks and streets which otherwise would collect heat and radiate it back at night, a problem in summer.  Yield lower electric bills due to cooling effect.  Lowers pollution by reducing coal-generated electrical plant outputs.

Water  503 gallons/year of storm water will be intercepted by each tree, and evaporation will help cool the neighborhood.

Air  Air quality greatly improved as trees absorb pollutants (ozone, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, dust, ash, smoke).  Will absorb 364 lbs. / year of carbon dioxide.  Oxygen is given off by trees.

VII. Action

Take the first step today in adopting your free tree(s)! Click here to download the form.

DEADLINE:  January 6, 2015

Thank you for your participation and civic pride!