Tree planting event helping Grand Rapids get closer to urban canopy goals

The city has been working for years to achieve a 40% canopy by focusing on planting trees in neighborhoods with little tree cover.

GRAND RAPIDS, me. – Mayor Rosalynn Bliss dreams of a time when it is safe enough for large groups to gather for one of her favorite events of the year, the Mayor’s Greening Initiative.

“If we are not living in COVID times, it is a wonderful experience when hundreds of people come together – people of all ages, and give back to their community,” she said.

For now, Bliss and a handful of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks volunteers will have to settle for a scaled-down version of the event. They will plant 25 trees in Plaster Creek Family Park and 25 more in the area on Saturday.

The lack of a large crowd certainly won’t be the same, but it won’t make the event any less special for the Mayor who has a special place in her heart for Plaster Creek.

“This park was recently redeveloped and is one of our nature parks. However, it was developed in collaboration with the students at Grand Rapids Public Schools. I would say this park has a rich history and is a beautiful park,” she said.

Saturday’s tree planting is only part of a major effort to increase the city’s urban canopy to 40%.

“It’s actually based on national standards,” Bliss said of the 40% target.

“Our goal is to reach 40 percent and to identify the areas of the city that are well below that 40 percent and to plant trees in those parts of the city.”

According to Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, the current urban canopy for Grand Rapids is 34.6% and 1,640 acres of land must be tree-covered to meet the 40% target. The organization’s executive director, Stephanie Adams, knows how much trees in the neighborhood can make a difference.

“They add real estate value, keep the air fresh, clean, and slow down traffic, especially when young children are running around. That really creates a safe environment,” said Adams.

“It helps heat and cool bills. They provide an amazing amount of shade and help keep our city really nice and cool in the summer when those cooling bills can get very high.”

The mayor’s greening initiative will extend well beyond this weekend. Volunteers will plant an additional 250 trees in the Burton Heights neighborhood this fall, and before that, residents will have the opportunity to receive a free tree as part of the initiative.

“We will never reach this 40% target if we only plant trees on public land. It really has to be an effort that we make in partnership with the community and encourage people to plant trees on private land too,” he said Bliss said.

In addition to the mayor’s greening initiative, Adams Friends of Grand Rapids Park and the city’s Forestry Department will plant more than 1,000 trees this year, with options resuming from now through June and then in September.

“Friends of Grand Rapids Parks are here to empower people to cultivate vibrant parks, green spaces, and trees in our community,” said Adams.

To volunteer for a planting event or request a free tree for your home, visit the Friends of Grand Rapids Parks website.

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