Photo: City of Trees Film

For this low-income neighborhood, hope grows on trees

by Rocky Kistner

Just a few miles east of the White House lies the Eighth Ward, one of the most impoverished and crime-ridden neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. The community has long struggled with unemployment, which hit a whopping 25 percent during the Great Recession.

Cue the $2.7 million stimulus grant to the nonprofit Washington Parks and People, which was charged with getting folks back to work via green job training. The organization had two years to hire 150 people and plant thousands of trees in urban-blighted parks and streets throughout the city.

For people like Charles Holcomb, a new father, and Michael Samuels, an ex-con looking for a fresh start, the opportunity was life changing, but their new jobs also helped transform their neighborhood. “We just wanted to bring some sunshine to the community,” says a WPP employee who grew up in Ward 8. “I’m tired of having funerals for our young kids.”

Work like this, however, is seldom simple. The new documentary City of Trees showcases some of the obstacles local green projects face — from community distrust to the struggle for government funding. But when neighbors can come together in green spaces that they’re proud of, roots of change can take hold.

City of Trees airs Tuesday night on World Channel as part of the nationally broadcast series America ReFramed. It is also available online here.

Originally published at on April 13, 2016.