Should we keep our trees?

Reposted from Grand Rapids Urban Forest Project

Our community has set firm goals for tree canopy. Green Grand Rapids, the City’s Urban Forest Plan, Climate Resiliency Plan, and the Sustainability Plan all highlight the City’s 40% tree canopy goal. It’s not just an arbitrary number to be aimed for; it’s become a symbol of Grand Rapids sustainability and environmentally-minded culture. Trees are part of our community fabric and we want more.
The City has made significant strides in planting and retaining trees. Since 2010, the City has had an aggressive tree planting program that has resulted in thousands of new trees alongside our streets. Partially funded by grants, these tree plantings are projected to accomplish near 100% stocking of street trees in the next three to five years. In other words, the City hopes to have the majority of available spaces for street trees planted with a tree in the near future.

However, the City of Grand Rapids has purview over only a small percentage of the city’s land area. The major opportunities for canopy retention and expansion are on private lands. In Grand Rapids, trees on residential properties are afforded little protection. In some cases, trees may be retained or planted as part of development or construction, but more often than not landowners are free to remove trees – however large or healthy – as they see fit.

Recently, a series of issues have caught the attention of residents within our community. Several large, healthy trees have been removed from properties in connection with some form of site improvement or development. While the issue has been granted recent attention, removals such as the recent ones are by no means an isolated occurrence. Trees are frequently removed or abused because it is easier than the alternative and their individual values are not always well recognized – even if our community has stated in multiple documents and strategies that a larger tree canopy is a desire. As neighborhoods continue to be presented with new development opportunities and investment, it is likely that we will experience more tree loss–a loss that is counterproductive to our community goals.

Other cities have addressed this issue in a variety of ways. The Alliance for Community Trees suggests that protecting large “heritage” or “landmark” trees is a best practice for tree conservation nationwide. Recognizing these trees and their contribution to the community is imperative to developing a comprehensive urban forestry program…. READ MORE

East Hills Tree Inventory

Our city has been named Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation 13 years in a row for its dedication to urban forestry. Grand Rapids earns this honor by being home to a community that loves and respects trees. Friends of Grand Rapids Parks offers many opportunities for volunteers to show their dedication to this cause and this July you have a chance to join us as we take part in an international study of urban forest science!

Several years ago, East Hills performed an inventory of ALL of their public trees with the assistance of Bartlett Tree Experts. More recently, national efforts have led to a standardization of tree monitoring protocol. Grand Rapids has been lucky to be included in some of the first testing of the applications of these protocol.

In July, we’ll be joining a list of other great cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and several in Sweden in testing and applying this protocol in real life scenarios. You can lend us a hand and become a part of this exciting effort.

We are currently looking for 12 to 20 volunteers to help us update the East Hills Tree Inventory using the new tree monitoring protocol. Volunteers will work in groups of two, and sign up for shifts of approximately 100 trees (~2.5 hours). You’re welcome to sign up for one shift, or five depending on your level of interest and availability. We will do everything we can to provide shifts that fit into YOUR schedule.

Experience is not required!!! Prior to inventory, volunteers will participate in a mandatory training on July 10th from 5:30p – 9:15p. Training will take place at WMEAC Headquarters (1007 Lake SE). A light supper will be provided. Participants must also have completed FGRP’s Tree ID course OR schedule a time to review tree ID with FGRP staff prior to working on the inventory project. Training will begin promptly at 5:30p.

We need your help! To sign up, or get more information please contact Lee Mueller (lee.mueller@friendsofgrparks).

FGRP Mini Grants

Does your neighborhood need trees? Have a great idea to bring attention to trees on your street? Friends of Grand Rapids Parks is happy to provide tree-related mini-grants on an on-going basis. These grants have funded projects like community fruit tree orchards, tree plantings, tree celebrations, tree walks, and tree care supplies.

Grants are available to any community-based organization. You can be a block-club, formal neighborhood organization, church, or just a group of neighbors who want to do some good in the community. Getting a grant is easy. First, you fill out a mini grant questionairre. Make sure you’re associated with a group or have several neighbors involved in the process. Once complete, you submit the grant to Lee (lee.mueller@friendsofgrparks.0rg). An FGRP committee will review the grant and determine if any changes are necessary. Once approved, you’ll work with FGRP to make your grant a success!

  • Grants can be used for up to $1,000 in funds for tree-related projects or to plant up to 20 trees. Here’s some examples:
  • Living Green in Creston – $500 was awarded in 2012 to aid in the maintenance of Creston’s fruit tree orchards.
  • Heart of West Michigan United Way – $600 was awarded in 2013 for the promotion and support of the Reforest Riverside Arbor Day Planting.
  • DA Blodgett / St. Johns – 20 trees were provided in 2012 for grounds improvement and canopy replacement following the loss of Ash and Austrian pine trees at DA Blodgett/St. Johns.
  • Site:Lab – 10 trees were provided for an out-door installation/demonstration of green space at the 2012 Art Prize Site:Lab installation.
  • Ottawa Hills Neighborhood Association – 17 trees were provided in 2013 to fill empty spaces between the sidewalk and the street.
  • Butterworth / Straight – 4 trees and funds were provided in 2014 to remove concrete, create new tree pits, and expand growing space for trees in this business district.

Please contact Lee Mueller ( if you are interested. For fall projects, mini-grants will be due by August 15.