We are thrilled to introduce one of the newest members of the Fairmount Park Conservancy team: Lee Scottlorde! Lee joined the Conservancy in November 2020. In their role as the Tree Philly program coordinator, Lee coordinates and implements the Community Yard Tree Giveaway Program with a focus on community engagement and environmental justice and also supports collaborations within Fairmount Park Conservancy programs and initiatives. Lee is excited to assist in increasing equity and centering diverse community voices in urban forestry.
Lee brings to the Conservancy eight years of community wellness and advocacy experience. They are a health justice advocate, member of Get Healthy Philly’s Health Justice Leadership team, America Walks 2020 Walking College fellow, former nature coach for University of Pennsylvania and organizer for GirlTrek, the nation’s largest public health organization for Black Women and Girls. Through all of these experiences, Lee has witnessed the positive health impact of nature in communities and aims to make sure all Philadelphians have access to this healing modality.
You’re sure to meet Lee in the coming months at the next Tree Philly event! Until then, get to know them a little better via the Q&A below.
Please tell us about why trees matter to you personally and beyond.
I have a very personal relationship with trees. Forest bathing is an essential part of my wellness plan, even more so now due to the Covid-19 pandemic which has restricted our social activities. Spending time under tree canopy or even simply gazing at the trees that line my street from my front lawn dramatically improves my sense of wellbeing and helps relieve stress for that day. My favorite self-care trail is the Boxers’ Trail in East Fairmount Park where you can escape from the typical noise of the city and immerse yourself in the quiet of the forest. On the trail there is full tree cover which creates a magical meditative experience full of sweet cameos from chipmunks and chirping birds.
What compelled you to join Fairmount Park Conservancy as TreePhilly Program Coordinator?
Studies have already shown that communities with a higher presence of trees have lower crime, higher health outcomes, higher property value, and are obviously cooler during summer months which can be lifesaving. I joined FPC as the Tree Philly Program Coordinator to contribute to the efforts being made to support environmental justice and equitable access to trees in Philadelphia.
Through my work as a wellness and nature coach I witnessed the positive affect of nature in communities of color, however far too often there is insufficient access to tree cover and green space in these communities. To receive the benefits of nature and be in a location that is being maintained consistently with care, feels safe and restorative. Everyone should have quick, easy access to nature. Access should begin as simply as walking out of one’s door and being able to enjoy the beauty and benefits of a tree lined street.
At the beginning of the pandemic when we were navigating our levels of comfortability with being in public spaces, my family had the privilege of tree gazing on our street to boost our moods, sitting in the shade to avoid the summer heat, and utilizing trees as entry point for environmental discussions with my children. Having access to trees and green spaces should not be a privilege of certain zip codes. Access to nature should be an essential and supported feature in every community regardless of income or race.
What are you most looking forward to in your role?
I am most looking forward to building relationships with and supporting the outreach goals of community partners from across the city. I am also looking forward to researching various cultural, spiritual, and mental health practices as pathways to potentially increase the presence of communities that have been historically overlooked in urban forestry and stewardship. Amplifying the rich histories, personal stories, and unique relationships to the land may spark another opportunity of interest in planting and maintaining trees. As Dr. Destiny Thomas, an anthropologist planner, often states, it is important we not only speak from our deficits; we must also speak from where communities are thriving.
What do you envision or hope for the future of trees in Philadelphia over the next 5 years?
In the next five years, it is my hope that there is sustainable funding to support tree maintenance and natural lands. It is not enough to just provide the trees and stick them in the ground. In order to reach and sustain the goal of 30 percent or more canopy in every neighborhood, there needs to be sufficient staffing and financial resources to support community members in the long term maintenance of trees. The full maintenance responsibility should not be a burden to communities that have been victims of environmental discrimination.