8,000 Trees for Downtown Atlanta

Photos above L-R, credit Stephanie Howard: Trees Atlanta’s Urban Trees crew prepare to plant two magnolia trees in Walton Spring Park in downtown Atlanta on Georgia Arbor Day, Friday, Feb. 18, 2022; Ceremonial tree planting to kick off Downtown Tree Planting Plan for 8,000 trees; standing left to right: A.J. Robinson, Janide Sidifal, Amir Farokhi, Greg Levine, Connie Veates, Betsy Baker, Marcia Bansley, Josh Rown, and Jason Dozier. 

Current 3% Tree Canopy Cover to 18% in 20 Years


The Downtown district of Atlanta has the lowest tree canopy cover of any neighborhood in the City of Atlanta. The 2008 Urban Tree Canopy Study conducted by Georgia Tech for the City of Atlanta reported Downtown has 3% canopy cover, whereas the city overall had 47.9% canopy cover. Some neighborhoods were covered in more than 80% tree canopy and others had coverage percentages in between.

Urban areas experience a temperature phenomenon called the urban heat island effect: in basic terms, this means that the air temperatures in cities can be hotter than areas with more natural areas where there is more vegetation. There is clear science for the benefit of trees, such as the canopy cooling effect. More trees can help offset the negative effects of the urban heat island effect, including reduced heat-related health issues and deaths, cleaner air, and lower utility and environmental damage burdens created by high air conditioner use. These benefits are further amplified with positive impacts to mental health and social benefits of improved access to nature in urban areas, particularly in vulnerable communities. Furthermore, in areas with high pedestrian traffic like a downtown district, the beauty of tree-lined streets and the pleasant shade of trees can increase foot-traffic, retail sales, and property values.

The mission of the Downtown Atlanta Urban
Tree Planting Plan centers on increasing
tree canopy cover in Downtown Atlanta,
subsequently improving air and water
quality, creating shade, and enhancing the
district’s aesthetic.

– excerpt from Central Atlanta Progress, Downtown Atlanta Urban Tree Planting Plan Report


Coming Full Circle


Central Atlanta Progress and Trees Atlanta began collaborating in 2019 with an ambitious idea of adding thousands of trees in the core of the city. Focused in the Downtown district, a comprehensive study of the streets, available public spaces, and local and state right-of-ways were evaluated for potential tree planting. This collaboration is a continuation of a long relationship that goes back to the very beginning of Trees Atlanta’s history. Recognizing the positive impact of trees on the community, a group of citizens joined together with the Junior League of Atlanta, Central Atlanta Progress, and the Commissioner of Parks to create Trees Atlanta in 1985 to address the lack of greenspace in the heart of downtown Atlanta.

That first year, Trees Atlanta planted 46 trees. The very first were planted Downtown on Carnegie Way. These trees still stand and provide refreshing canopies of green in a vibrant downtown.

Thirty-seven year later, it is increasingly challenging to finding open spaces in Downtown that has adequate ground area and clear overhead space for trees. A downtown area is densely built with offices, retail, and residential structures, as well as roads, streets, sidewalks, and parking lots, in addition to intrastructure lines below ground and overhead. Surrounding residential neighborhoods nearest to the Downtown area are also burdened with the negative effects of lower canopy cover. The benefits of trees is greatly needed in these areas.

A master tree planting plan was developed that identifies locations for approximately 8,000 trees that can be planted in Downtown. The projected outcome is estimated to be a doubling of the current tree canopy cover within ten years as the 8000 trees are planted over a ten-year period. If the tree planting goal for downtown is achieved, these trees can continue to grow and increase its canopy cover to 18% tree cover of downtown by 20 years. A report was produced by Central Atlanta Progress: Downtown Atlanta Urban Tree Planting Plan Report.


Celebrating Georgia Arbor Day with a Kickoff to Doubling Downtown’s Canopy


Georgia Arbor Day was Friday, February 18, 2022 and a great day to celebrate and kickstart the plan to double the tree canopy in Downtown in ten years. A chill lingered the sunny Friday morning when the project partners gathered at Walton Spring Park. They were joined by city officials and representatives from the same organizations that helped kick off the very first downtown tree planting. Betsy Baker (then Comissioner of Parks) and Marcia Bansley (who was then the Executive Director of Trees Atlanta), who were present at the first planting in 1985, were also present for the ceremonial planting kickoff. (Full list of participants listed below in press release.)

Two “Lois” magnolia trees (Magnolia x brooklynensis ‘Lois’ from Georgia-based Bold Springs Nursery) were planted to the left and right of the statue of former Atlanta Mayor and statesman, Andrew Young. The trees will bloom beautiful yellow flowers in Spring and then leaf out in a lush green canopy.

Funding to complete this Downtown tree planting plan is being sought.

Press Release from Central Atlanta Progress Febuary 28, 2022

8,000 Trees for Downtown Atlanta

Partners Celebrate Georgia Arbor Day with Symbolic Tree Planting to Kick off 10-year Plan


ATLANTA – City of Atlanta officials and leadership from the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District (ADID) and Trees Atlanta observed Georgia Arbor Day (February 18) with a special tree planting to officially launch the Downtown Urban Tree Planting Plan. Dignitaries and community partners gathered near the site of the very first Trees Atlanta planting on Carnegie Way for the ceremony. Those in attendance were:

  • Jason Dozier, City of Atlanta Councilmember (District 4)
  • Amir Farokhi, City of Atlanta Councilmember (District 2)
  • Janide Sidifal, Interim Commissioner, City of Atlanta Department of Planning
  • Josh Rowan, Commissioner, City of Atlanta Department of Transportation
  • Jasen Johns, Arborist, City of Atlanta
  • Betsy Baker, Former Parks Commissioner, City of Atlanta
  • Marcia Bansley, Retired Founding Executive Director, Trees Atlanta
  • Greg Levine, Co-Executive Director & Chief Program Officer, Trees Atlanta
  • Connie Veates, Co-Executive Director & Chief Operating Officer, Trees Atlanta
  • AJ Robinson, President, Central Atlanta Progress and the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District

At the start of the planting event, A.J. Robinson, President of CAP and ADID, told participants that the Downtown Atlanta Urban Tree Planting Plan is the blueprint for action and implementation for the next decade. “The Plan aims to double tree coverage by planting upwards of 8,000 trees phased over ten years,” said Robinson. He added, “Trees will be planted along Downtown’s streets, as well as on underutilized land. By enhancing the user experience on a human scale, these catalytic efforts will create a healthy, comfortable, and safe urban environment for both residents and visitors alike.”

Central Atlanta Progress and Atlanta Downtown Improvement District (CAP/ADID) commissioned the preparation of this Planting Plan in partnership with Trees Atlanta. Efforts were spearheaded by CAP/ADID, collaborating with Trees Atlanta and the City of Atlanta. The full report and associated materials represent the collaborative and multi-disciplinary effort necessary to bring this vision to reality.

Connie Veates, Co-Executive Director of Trees Atlanta noted, “Downtown is where Trees Atlanta planted the very first trees that founded our organization in 1985. Our mission to improve Atlanta’s urban canopy began here with Atlanta’s community and business leaders, including Central Atlanta Progress, Junior League, and the Commissioner of Parks at our side. We are now embarking on the next generation of significantly more trees for Atlanta’s downtown district.” The project’s impact on surrounding residential neighborhoods was highlighted by Greg Levine, Co-Executive Director of Trees Atlanta, “Downtown Atlanta has the lowest tree canopy in the entire city. In time, these 8,000 trees will provide tremendous health, environmental, and economic benefits to Atlanta’s central business district, and importantly, will also greatly increase access to the benefits of trees to the communities closest to Downtown.”


Photos above top row L-R: Trees Atlanta’s first downtown tree planting ceremony in 1986 including Bob Wagner, President of Trees Atlanta, Chester J. Funnye, Commissioner of Public Works, Betsy C. Baker, Commissioner of Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Affirs, and Dan Sweat, President of Central Atlanta Progress, Inc., and Marcia Bansley, Trees Atlanta’s first Executive Director in the background (wearing banded hat), credit Trees Atlanta Archive; pages from the Downtown Atlanta Urban Tree Planting Plan Report, credit Central Atlanta Progress. 

Photos above second row L-R: Mature trees – bare in winter – lining Carnegie Way near Walton Spring Park were among the 46 trees planted during Trees Atlanta’s first year as a nonprofit organization, credit Stephanie Howard; Cermonial tree planting, credit Judy Yi; Group gathers for remarks before the planting of two magnolia trees near the statue of Andrew Young by sculpter Johnpaul Harris located in Walton Spring Park, downtown Atlanta, GA, credit Judy Yi.


Posted on: March 1, 2022