Rooting for a greener future

Photo courtesy of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks.

Arbor Day celebrations are in full swing as two area communities join forces to honor the occasion with tree plantings, festivities, and free tree seedling giveaways.

Friends of Grand Rapids Parks is gearing up for their Ninth Annual Tree Planting Event, ArborFest, which aims to bring over 250 new trees to the Grand Rapids area with the help of community members. Set to take place on Friday, April 26 and Saturday, April 27 in the Martin Luther King Park Neighborhood, ArborFest coincides with Arbor Day and aligns with the Mayor’s Greening Initiative. Volunteers of all ages will gather to plant trees, foster community connections, and enhance the neighborhood’s sustainability. The event promises guided tree identification walks, complimentary refreshments, and the opportunity to contribute to a greener future for Grand Rapids.

“We’re excited to bring more trees into the MLK Park community this year! Grand Rapids has a ton of momentum right now for growing shade in neighborhoods that have been without trees for far too long,” said Executive Director Stacy Bare. “ArborFest always has a bit of a homecoming feel as long-time volunteers reconnect after the long winter, and new volunteers are welcomed. I hope people will come for the trees but stay for the feeling of connection with each other, the environment, and this great neighborhood!”

Friends will remain available during and after ArborFest to provide information to neighbors on tree welfare and the sustainable benefits of increasing the region’s tree canopy. Once these new trees are 25 years old, they will collectively, on an annual basis, sequester 120 tons of carbon each year, intercept 2.4 million gallons of stormwater, remove 8,000 pounds of pollution, provide 151 acres of new forest canopy, and have a replacement value of $18.2 million. The trees will be watered and maintained for two years after planting by the Friends’ Youth Green Team.

“During a time where we need to prioritize our communities, I am honored to work alongside Friends to help make incredible events like ArborFest happen,” said Friends’ Board Vice President, Victor Holt. “By increasing the city’s tree canopy and the Friends team rallying the community to make it happen, I know the future of Grand Rapids will continue to only grow and become even more sustainable for many years to come.”

Due to high interest from volunteers for this annual event, Grand Rapids community member volunteer positions are full. Neighbors interested in volunteering with Friends in the future can learn about future tree planting shifts by visiting Friends’ official website.

Meanwhile, the City of Kentwood is preparing for its own Arbor Day Celebration, inviting residents to participate in a tree planting event and enjoy a free tree seedling giveaway. Taking place on Friday, April 26, at Pinewood Park, Kentwood’s celebration kicks off with an Arbor Day proclamation, followed by tree planting activities and a guided tree identification walk. Residents are encouraged to pick up free tree seedlings ahead of the event from the Kentwood Activities Center or the Kentwood Department of Public Works. The Arbor Day Celebration, sponsored by Railtown Brewing Company and Metronet, underscores the importance of trees in creating cleaner, healthier environments and offers a chance for community members to engage in environmental stewardship.

“Our trees, of different species and sizes, offer more than just visual charm,” Mayor Stephen Kepley said. “They serve as vital contributors to a cleaner and healthier environment. Our Arbor Day Celebration is an opportunity to collaborate and encourage one another by not only planting new trees but also protecting our existing tree canopy from invasive species for the preservation and enjoyment of today and future generations.”

Residents can pick up free tree seedlings at the Kentwood Activities Center, 355 48th St. SE, or at Kentwood Department of Public Works, 5068 Breton SE, ahead of the celebration. The seedlings will be available during business hours Tuesday, April 23 through Friday, April 26 while supplies last.

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