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The City of Phoenix has been planting and replacing trees all along the Light Rail corridors in an effort to improve “pedestrian-friendly landscaping and improve [ADA] accessibility”, according to a press release from March.
The project, which is scheduled to take about 18 months, will plant new trees in over 180 empty tree wells and see others either pruned, removed, or replaced. In addition, just under 180 trees will get fencing around their base to improve ADA compliance and presumably also protect the trees they grow.

The humble Pistache

Chinese Pistache trees near Central Avenue & McKinley in Phoenix. (Photo Credit:

The city has chosen to plant a species known as the Chinese Pistache in some of the empty wells and also in place of some of the trees that are to be removed. The Pistache tree was chosen based on its good shade canopy, wind resistance, and tendency to grow straight trunks. Beyond those benefits, Pistache trees are non-invasive, aesthetically pleasing, and provide some color in the fall when their leaves turn yellow/red. As its name might suggest, the Chinese Pistache is also a very close relative of the species that produce the beloved pistachio nut.

Most of the trees planted will go in along Central Avenue between McDowell and Camelback roads (63 trees), and along Washington & Jefferson Streets out to 26th Street (74 trees). A further 31 trees will be planted along 19th Avenue between Bethany Home Road and Dunlap Avenue. The City provided the following breakdown:
A breakdown showing where planned tree maintenance and plantings will take place under this project. Courtesy of the City of Phoenix.
The project should be completed by September 2020.

A tree of many benefits

This effort provides a good step towards developing a better tree canopy in and around Downtown Phoenix, which suffers from an abundance of sun-beaten sidewalks that can become hostile to pedestrians during the summertime. In addition to improving walkability, a better tree canopy would reduce the ‘heat island’ effect and reduce storm runoff, among other benefits. Phoenix has established a long-term goal of covering 25% of the city with shade trees by 2030.

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