Why Pokémon Are Good for Urban Trees (and People too)!


By: Jason Galliger, Digital Strategist

If you’ve walked around the District this weekend you may have noticed something interesting — groups of twenty-somethings standing in parks or street corners staring at their phones.

No, they aren’t using FaceTime.

Instead they are likely playing Pokémon Go, a new Android and iOS mobile app game that’s smashing records and sweeping the nation developed by Nintendo and Niantic.

Pokémon Go enables people to “catch” Pokémon during every day experiences in the real world, making every 90’s kids

dream of “Mom can I get a Pikachu, please?” essentially come true.

The game works like this: using your phone’s GPS and clock it determines where and when you are in the game and makes certain Pokémon appear around you. In order to catch a Pokémon you click it and it appears on your phone’s screen through your camera in real time. You then “throw” a Pokéball towards it to capture it.

The goal of the game is to collect all 151 of the original Pokémon.

Here’s the kicker: in order to “catch ‘em all” players must actually walk around in the real world, a lot.

While Pokémon can technically appear anywhere, most are found in areas where people congregate regularly. Which in an urban setting means parks.

Yes, you heard me right. A mobile game is encouraging people to get outside and walk to parks.

This is a huge deal for parks and for the trees within them.

The more people visit urban parks, the more people will appreciate and fight to protect them.

There’s another benefit — getting people out in nature (albeit through the lure of a mobile game) is better for their mental health. Already the game is getting praise for this.

Even more exciting than that is the social experiences the game provides. Just this weekend alone I was out playing and ended up chatting happily with 5 different groups of total strangers, who not only were enjoying the game, but the scenery and weather as well.

Regardless, of your feelings on Pokémon and the game itself, you have to give credit to Nintendo and Niantic for creating something that gets people up, outside and in parks.

If you want to get involved with helping to protect our urban parks, consider joining our citizen-led Parks Campaign.

Bonus: If you’re a Pokémon Go player, our D.C. park map will come in handy when you’re trying to catch that Pikachu!

Why We Need More Trees in our Local Parks

What makes a great local park?

Some people say amenities like playgrounds and sports courts, some simply say access.

We say trees and well-designed green spaces.

Why? We think that a park lacking usable green spaces and trees is not living up to its full potential. Think about it — are you drawn to a concrete-filled park?

Data from our latest Tree Report Card shows that many of D.C.’s public parks are in need of trees.

In fact 87 of D.C’s local parks have a tree canopy of less than 20 percent. Limiting their potential.

That’s why our newest advocacy campaign focuses on our local parks, or those owned by the District’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

20 percent of all D.C. is parkland. Of that 20 percent, 74 percent is owned and maintained by the National Park Service, 10 is owned and

managed by the District Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) and 16 percent is owned by other entities such as public-private partnerships.

Many of DPR’s parks are well-integrated and super vital to the community. Garfield Park in Ward 6 is a prime example.

The goal of Casey Trees’ local parks campaign is a commitment to transforming neighborhood parks that are empty or misused into well-loved, well-used, tree-filled public spaces. Tree-filled local parks are more welcoming, shadier, attract wildlife and build communities.

Which is why we are thrilled by the one of the recent actions of DPR.

DPR is planning to transform the pocket park at 13th & Quincy NW into a beautiful zen garden with gingkoes and serviceberries. Just look at the difference between the triangle park at 13th & Quincy NW in its current state and in the rendering below. Which would you value more?

We thank DPR for their recent efforts and encourage them to continue re-treeing our parks.

If you are interested in joining our parks campaign to improve D.C.’s local parks, please email campaign manager Jewel Lipps at advocacy@caseytrees.org. Jewel is currently working with our Design & Advocacy department to

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identify priority actions for the campaign. Once those are set, there will be events to sign up for and other ways you can get involved.

Help Us Fight Invasive Plants!

There’s a scourge threatening your trees — non-native, invasive plants.

These leafy invaders have crossed our borders and wormed their way into our parks, neighborhoods and yards. Their occupation of these spaces places the well-being of trees around you at risk.

But there is hope.

Our non-native invasive plant removal class!

This class offers a crash course in how to identify and control species of invasive plants like:

  • Porcelainberry
  • Japanese stiltgrass
  • Mile-a-minute

It is held in two parts on two different days: a classroom session at Casey Trees HQ on June 8 followed by a field session in Rock Creek Park on June 11.

If you want to be able to stem the tide of these invaders join us.

Register now!

The Mayor Signed the Tree Bill!

Yesterday, Mayor Muriel Bowser signed the Tree Canopy Amendment Act of 2016 (TPCAA)!

Barring any Congressional oversight, this act will become law and strengthen D.C.’s tree protections for the first time in 14 years — ensuring D.C.’s urban forest will be protected for generations to come.

It is also the last step in the legislative process that first began on July 14, 2015 when Councilmembers Charles Allen and Mary Cheh introduced the bill.

To truly appreciate this milestone achievement we wanted to examine all the hurdles this bill has to pass before getting to this point. To do that, we must first understand how the D.C. legislative process works.


And now if we modify it for this bill:

click to zoom in

What a journey!

For the tree bill to get to this point required the input and actions of the entire D.C. Council, the Mayor and concerned Tree Advocates and citizens like you. Thanks

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to all of you for your support.

We especially wanted to thank Charles Allen and Mary Cheh for taking the lead on this legislation and helping to shepherd it through the entire council.

Stay tuned to the blog and our social media channels for an update on when the TPCAA finally becomes law.

Why Jewel Lipps is advocating for greener D.C. parks

Advocacy can take many forms. Here at Casey Trees, we help coordinate like-minded tree advocates and provide a forum for them to come together and learn how they can use their voice to support D.C.’s tree canopy.

One of our upcoming efforts is the D.C. Local Parks Campaign. A campaign that is led by a committee of dedicated tree advocates and citizens of the District. Jewel Lipps is the chair of this committee.

As we wrap up our National Volunteer Week stories we wanted to highlight the beginning of Jewel’s journey to help re-tree D.C.’s parks.

What drew you to attending Stand Up For Trees?

I love trees and know of the many benefits provided by an urban forest. I moved here this past summer and heard that Casey Trees was a great organization. I saw attending Stand Up for Trees as my first step to getting involved with the urban forest initiative in my new city.

What are you most excited about for this upcoming parks campaign?

I am excited about meeting and working with other tree advocates. It’s great to spend time with other people who care about DC’s trees and parks, and to come together to advocate for greening local parks.

Why is it important for concerned citizens, like yourself, to advocate for trees and parks?

If we want DC to be a sustainable, healthy city full of trees and green public spaces, it’s so important to tell that to the city’s decision makers and managers. With so many things to consider when running a city, they needs us to tell them that yes, DC citizens do care about trees, want trees protected, and want more trees in parks. Advocacy and public support for urban forests can really improve the city.

How can other people get involved with this campaign and advocacy in general?

Stand Up for Trees is a fantastic class and a great first step to getting involved. Other opportunities will be on the Casey Trees website. When at a class or meeting, I recommend chatting with the Advocacy team and experienced tree advocates. They are happy to talk and help you get involved.

What is something you would say to someone thinking about volunteering/advocating?

Casey Trees volunteers and advocates care so much about trees and know very well that trees make DC better for everyone. The volunteer/advocate community is diverse, passionate, and together we are creating a better DC with more healthy trees and all the benefits trees bring. It’s so great to be part of this community.

We will give more details on the D.C. Local Park Campaign in upcoming weeks. Those who want to get involved can email advocacy@caseytrees.org for more information or stay tuned to the website, Leaflet, blog and social media.


What trees do for your parks

Your neighborhood park is a great place to picnic, read a book or play catch. But did you also know that 50 ft sugar maple you’re sitting under is storing almost 2000lbs of carbon and capturing almost 100 cubic feet of storm water every year?

Thanks to some amazing volunteers, we were able to collect data on trees in Crispus Attucks Park and calculate their benefits using a scientifically vetted model known as iTree. You can see all that information come to life through this interactive map—including more data about that sugar maple.

With your help, we can do this for all parks in D.C.

This year, Arbor Day falls on April 29 – and what better way to celebrate it than by volunteering with us at Meridian Hill Park for the next park inventory. If you’ve participated in our Trees 101 or Trees 201 class, this will be a great way to put your knowledge into action but no prior experience is necessary. We provide a short, hands-on training, then work together in small groups as we document tree species, height, diameter of the trunk, width of the crown and more.

Sign up soon for the Meridian Hill Park Inventory to guarantee your spot before they run out!


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you can’t make this one, we have plenty more throughout the summer:

May 11 – Upper Senate Park

May 26 – Emery Recreation Center

June 4 – Yards Park

June 14 – Benning Stoddert Recreation Center

June 25 – Hillcrest Recreation Center

July 9 – Landsburgh Park

July 14 – Chevy Chase Recreation Center

August 6 – Lincoln Park

What’s it like to prune D.C.’s Cherry Trees

Lina Cortas is a long-time Casey Trees volunteer. On Saturdays you can often find her helping man the registration table, or getting her hands dirty by helping lead a team.

One of the perks of being a long-time volunteer is the knowledge gained from special tree care classes. One of these classes, our pruning workshop teaches proper pruning techniques. Those who take this class are automatically qualified to be a part of another very exclusive event — helping to prune D.C.’s cherry trees.

We caught up with Lina and asked her what it is like to be up close and personal with some our city’s most famous trees!

When was your first tree care event at Casey Trees?

In the summer of 2013, I participated in a few tree care events which included weeding, mulching and watering young trees at various locations in the city and pruning DC’s historic cherry trees. I have continued to prune cherry trees every summer and early fall.

How does it feel to be part of an exclusive group who get to prune D.C.’s cherry trees?

It feels great to be trusted by Casey Trees and the National Park Service to safeguard a D.C. treasure for the enjoyment of locals and tourists alike. It is also very gratifying to see the difference a few hours of pruning a group of dedicated volunteers can make enhancing the appearance of a site and the health of the trees.

What was the thing that surprised you the most when it came to pruning?

I was very surprised that the suckers on the cherry trees needed pruning every year. If I didn’t know that I had pruned the trees the year before, I would not have believed it—the amount of annual growth is tremendous.

Why do you think continued tree care is so important?

The benefits of trees are countless and like all living beings they need help to survive, grow and thrive especially in an urban environment.

Stay tuned to the blog this week for more National Volunteer Week stories and profiles!

Canopy Volunteer Award Winners: Past & Present

One of the awards we hand out at the Canopy Awards is the award for Volunteer Service. We give this award to individuals who have dedicated many a Saturday in rain or shine to attend a tree planting, tree care event and more.

These are the familiar faces we see each and every planting season. We consider them brothers and sisters-in-arms (or shovels) in our tree planting quest. So in honor of National Volunteer Week we wanted to spotlight a past and the current winner of this prestigious award.

Christy Kwan (2014 Winner) 

Christy was the first ever recipient of this award. We asked her about the experience and her journey with Casey Trees.

What was it like to be honored with the Volunteer award at the Canopy Awards?

It was quite a surprise! I was really touched to be the first recipient of the Canopy Award for Volunteer Service, especially because I volunteer just because I like helping out. The news came out when I was traveling for work, and I literally spit out my water when I opened my email to see that I was being honored alongside some really important folks, such as former Mayor Williams! But it really isn’t about me — it’s about all of the volunteers working together with staff and the community to help achieve a greater tree canopy for the city. We can’t achieve a 40% tree canopy alone.

When did you first get involved with Casey Trees?

I first got involved in 2011 by taking a few classes and the Tree Planting Workshop. Everyone was so nice and it was a great change of pace to plant trees on a Saturday and to see the immediate results afterwards.

Why should other people volunteer with Casey Trees?

There’s so many opportunities now to volunteer at Casey Trees. It’s no longer just tree plantings, but there’s a wonderful range of activities for individuals and families, particularly the Citizen Scientist and Advocacy opportunities. I am impartial to the tree planting work because it gets me out of the house on a Saturday morning where I can visit a new neighborhood, work with my hands, meet new people, and catch up with tree planting friends.

What is your favorite part of volunteering?

The people! Everyone on staff and other volunteers are what make the volunteer experience. Whether it is meeting volunteers who stop by once, or those who volunteer week after week, it’s been really rewarding meeting people and seeing hearing everyone’s motivations to volunteer.

Once after a tree planting in Oxon Run in Southeast DC, I was walking to the Metro and was stopped by a young girl on the street who saw my Casey Trees shirt. She proceed to tell me how she helped plant a tree at her school a few weeks ago and how much fun she had. It was really touching to hear about her new connections to trees and the environment. It’s interactions like that that make me feel like I’m devoting my time and energy into work that’s actually making a difference.

What have you done since getting your award?

I helped with Casey Trees work on the pilot Street Team program, which is now back up and running seeking new Outreach volunteers.

Gregg Serenbetz (2016 Winner)

Gregg Serenbetz has volunteered with Casey Trees since 2002 and he was in the very first class of Citizen Foresters. He has modestly under estimated the number of events he has attended at Casey Trees, but we believe he has attended over 250 events and donated more than 700 hours.

Fresh out of graduate school and as a new employee at the Environmental Protection Agency in the Office of Wetlands, Oceans and Watersheds, Gregg began his volunteer service helping to survey street trees around Capitol Hill and Metro Center in Casey Trees’ initial street tree inventory. Since then he has lent his volunteer services to support Citizen Science research projects, numerous pruning and tree care events and environmental education fairs.

But planting trees has really been his calling. Gregg is sometimes the first to show up, and often the last to leave, but always the most thoroughly muddy – he wears his tree planting passion on his sleeves, (and all over really…). We estimate Gregg has lent a helping hand in planting over 200 trees.

Gregg told us what compels him to come back season after season is — “the knowledge that [he] is making a direct and positive impact on the environment — in the present time but even more so for the distant future!”

Stay tuned to the blog this week for more National Volunteer Week stories and profiles!