RI lawmaker commends DEM’s tree giveaway, but questions accessibility for urban core

Politics

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s free tree giveaway is now in its 12th season and continues to draw interest from residents all across the state.

But Rep. Anastasia Williams is questioning whether all Rhode Island residents actually have access to the program.

While Williams commended the DEM for providing the trees free of charge to Rhode Islanders, she wonders whether the trees are accessible to those living in the more urban parts of the state.

“I have to ask why none of the pickup locations are located in Rhode Island’s urban core, the very areas of our state that are the most in-need of additional trees,” she said, adding that right now, the pickup locations for this season are in Bristol, Johnston, North Kingstown and Richmond.

Gail Mastrati, assistant director for the DEM, tells 12 News they plan to reach out to Williams and address her concerns.

“The pickup sites for this statewide program were chosen based on geography and availability, with four central locations offered throughout the state,” she said in a statement. “We move the pickup sites around each time we offer this program, and we will be sure to include a Providence site again in the next round this fall.”

In the past, Mastrati said the program has had pickup events in various parts of Providence, including Dexter Field, Roger Williams Park Botanical Garden, Knight Memorial Library and the Hope Street Farmer’s Market.

Williams tells 12 News her concerns stretch far beyond the DEM and its tree program. She said situations like this one all circle back to how the state’s urban core is often overlooked.

“Frankly, it’s very tiring and unacceptable to have to continuously point out these reoccurring inequalities that arise on a daily and yearly basis for the same people and organizations every time,” she said.

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