Local civic group makes history, vows to make South Philadelphia greener

Tree Planting at 710 Dudley St – Acer campestre

The East Passyunk area of the city is known as being a vibrant place to shop, eat and stroll—but what most people don’t realize is how it has made history.

Recently, the East Passyunk Crossing Civic Association (EPX) in Philadelphia has been awarded a Level 1 Accreditation for the East Passyunk Crossing Arboretum by the ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program and The Morton Arboretum. Essentially what this means is that East Passyunk’s Crossing Civic Association is now recognized as an accredited arboretum in the Morton Register of Arboreta, a database of the world’s arboreta and gardens dedicated to woody plants. In short, the ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program is the only global initiative to officially recognize arboreta at various levels of development, capacity, and professionalism, and this has never been recognized before locally.

According to a release, The East Passyunk Crossing Arboretum is the second urban neighborhood in the United States to be accredited by ArbNet, and the first neighborhood in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to achieve this standing. The East Passyunk neighborhood’s dedicated volunteer team of Tree Tenders – tree enthusiasts who are trained by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society – worked diligently to do research, plant trees, apply for, and document their work over a couple of years to secure this achievement. It took time, and it might not be a full fledged park, but making a concrete jungle green takes more work than you would think.

The East Passyunk Crossing community center.Provided

“We are thrilled by the recognition from ArbNet and the Morton Arboretum designating our neighborhood as a Level 1 arboretum,” said East Passyunk Crossing Civic Association President Samantha Gross. “This accreditation furthers our efforts to increase our community’s tree canopy and acknowledges the dedication of our Tree Tenders program.”

This means that those who head to this vibrant area of the city will be experiencing a lot more than just crafted cocktails, window shopping and homemade pastries, they will also soon be experiencing a lot more greenery.

A Level 1 arboretum accreditation requires a governance group to create an arboretum plan, choose the appropriate trees, oversee the plantings, and all the related application processes. For EPX specifically, the group considered this task a “labor of love,” expanding on its prior work to beautify the neighborhood. Working with the PHS, an internationally recognized nonprofit focused on gardening for the greater good, the EPX has been planting street trees through the Tree Tenders program of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society in cooperation with the City of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department for the past 10 years.

As the release states, the PHS’s Tree Tenders program trains volunteers in tree planting, care, and maintenance, and has produced more than 5,000 Tree Tenders over the program’s lifetime. For the EPX arboretum, tree species in the area were specifically chosen to survive and thrive as street trees, which is critical because the area has limited green space. Tree canopy cover in the neighborhood is in the range of 3%, one of the lowest in the City of Philadelphia. EPX’s goal, through the arboretum accreditation and its continued partnership with Tree Tenders, is to continue its work to increase the tree canopy cover to the city’s goal of 30% in order to reduce heat and beautify the neighborhood.


East Passyunk Crossing covers 134-acres in South Philadelphia, and through their coverage there will also be two opportunities for the public to get involved as well (in April and November.) The arboretum collection is accessible via an interactive map on the EPX website. The work will reign on as well with EPX as the 2nd urban neighborhood in the United States to be accredited by ArbNet, and the first neighborhood in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to achieve this standing.

“The Level 1 Arboretum Accreditation will help us increase the awareness of the benefits of trees in the urban environment, encouraging more residents to plant trees in front of their homes and businesses,” said EPX Tree Tenders Co-Chair Bill Grubb in a statement. “Our association with ArbNet will also facilitate evaluation of species we plant and improve planting and care practices. EPX invites all our Philadelphia Tree Tender Groups to become accredited Arboreta to promote the study and care of trees, increasing our canopy city wide.”

For more information about the East Passyunk Crossing Civic Association, visit epcrossing.org