The Rapidian

Three hundred trees to be planted during Mayor's Greening Initiative on April 28

Mayor will join volunteers planting 300 trees in West Grand Rapids, where also hundreds of tree will be given away to local school and GR residents
Photo courtesy of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks

Photo courtesy of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks

Friends of Grand Rapids Parks is gearing up for its third annual tree planting event called the “Mayor’s Greening Initiative.” Three hundred trees will be planted across a three-mile area on the city's West Side, in celebration of tree planting holiday Arbor Day. The non-profit organization is looking for 400 volunteers to help with this planting initiative.

The tree planting event on Saturday, April 28 is being sponsored by Mayor Rosalynn Bliss in accordance with the goal set by the city of Grand Rapids in 2009 to increase the tree canopy cover to 40 percent across all of Grand Rapids.

Bliss will give a short speech and participate in the tree planting. She said this event is one of her favorite service projects, as it helps to highlight the importance of community service.

“I love spending the day with friends and neighbors and being a part of leaving a neighborhood a little greener,” Bliss said. “This always brings a smile to my day.”

Bliss was one of the founding board members of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks in 2008, which offers volunteer opportunities and different programs centered around the upkeep and management of parks in Grand Rapids. The executive director of the organization, Stephanie Adams, said the mayor has always been an advocate for parks, trees, and public spaces in the Grand Rapids community.

“We're really lucky to have someone who has that environmental side, and understanding of what it takes to make a great city. Because great cities have these beautiful green infrastructures,” Adams said.  

Tree planting events like these offers many benefits to the community, Adams said, including improving the property value of homes, lowering the heat index of an area, and even improving the health of residents.

“We put in a ton of time and energy into this because we know how important it is for our community to have large tree plantings like this every year,” Adams said. “It really gives that opportunity to connect citizens to these environmental issues, and just raise awareness of something people may not think of every single day.”

Air pollution, runoff, erosion, and flooding are all environmental issues concerning cities and urban areas that can be dealt with by tree planting, according to executive director of the West Michigan Environmental Action Council, Bill Wood.

“I think it will make a difference in that every little bit helps,” Wood said. “Here is an action that might seem kind of small on one day of the year, but it can be replicated.”

All trees planted are monitored by Friends of Grand Rapids Parks. They are maintained, pruned, and looked after by other volunteers in the organization’s Citizens Forestry program, where volunteers are trained in the upkeep of trees, and also in advocacy for the importance of trees and park spaces.

Not only will Friends of Grand Rapids Parks be planting trees, but they will also be giving away some as well. 400 saplings will be given away to Stocking Elementary school, and 100 to willing Grand Rapids residents.

“We think stewardship of our parks, trees, and public spaces is an entire community's responsibility,” Adams said. “We are an organization that really looks to empower people, for them to be able to cultivate their own spaces.”

The Mayor’s Greening Initiative is sponsored by many corporations, colleges, and environmental groups, but most importantly, it is supported by the amount of volunteers that come out every year. Carl Johnson is one of those volunteers, and has been since it began in 2016. His hobby as a woodworker inspired him to take an active role in environmental sustainability, especially because of how the wood he uses to make things like furniture must come from somewhere.

He enjoys the satisfaction of supporting the environment, but also the sight of watching the trees bloom after a few months of him planting them.

“Many things we do are not very permanent, but when you plant a tree, you're really doing something that's going to be around for a long time,” Johnson said. “I think that's really rewarding for me.”

Johnson has two grandchildren in the second and third grade, and he sometimes holds Saturday science sessions with them to teach them about the environment, woodworking, and the importance of having trees. Although they are young, he hopes they grow up to become more active in protecting the environment.

“What I tell my grandkids is, you got to support what you believe in,” he said. “So if you believe that it's good to have trees and having a very pleasant environment around you, why not get involved. If you believe in it, get out and support it.”

In order to volunteer for the tree planting event, those interested can visit the Friends of Grand Rapids website to sign up. No prior training is required, as all volunteers will be trained on site the day of the planting.

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