Thursday, November 06, 2014

Citizen Foresters plant more than trees with the Urban Forest Project

by Zinta Aistars
Published in Rapid Growth Media
Grand Rapids, Michigan
November 6, 2014

Left to right: Lee Mueller, Vic Foerster, Amanda St. Amour (Photo by Adam Bird)

As part of Grand Rapids' Urban Forest Project, Citizen Foresters plant trees and community knowledge as they try to increase the city's canopy. As the last of the leaves fall, Zinta Aistars reports on why it's important for urban neighborhoods to plant their own trees -- and tells you how you can get involved.

Almost everything depreciates with age—except fine wine and trees.

“As a tree grows, it becomes an increasing asset to all that lives around it,” says Lee Mueller, program director of the Urban Forest Project in Grand Rapids. “There’s a rich body of research showing that trees provide more benefits as they grow larger. And when you compare cities with and cities without trees, you will also see significant differences in people’s health.”

Mueller is ready with a long list of benefits of trees. Simply having a view of trees from one’s window can help in healing, he says. Trees offer shade and cooling on a hot summer day. Trees add to property values. Trees help to prevent erosion. Trees absorb odors and pollutant gases, helping to clean the air by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing it back into the air as oxygen. Trees save water, slowing down evaporation. Trees provide shelter for wildlife.

And that’s just the beginning of all that trees do for their surrounding environment.

“There are cultural, social, economic, public health and environmental benefits to having a diverse canopy of trees over a city,” says Mueller. “That’s why the City of Grand Rapids and the Friends of Grand Rapids launched the Urban Forest Project in 2011, to meet the city’s goal of establishing a 40 percent tree canopy over Grand Rapids.”

With core funding from the Grand Rapids Community Foundation in spring 2014, Urban Forest Project gathered a small staff and a group of 20 volunteers as part of a new Citizen Forester program to get planting.

“For me, it’s personal,” says Vic Foerster, consultant arborist working with Urban Forest Project. He teaches some of the classes for volunteers, called Citizen Foresters, then guides them in the proper planting of trees.

“I’m a long-time resident of this city,” he says. “I’ve raised my kids here. I can remember when the city parks were a place you’d rather avoid. Back in the ‘70s, ‘80s, the parks weren’t well-maintained the way they are today, and there was more crime. Today I walk in those same parks all the time, and ...


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