The Friends of Grand Rapids Parks team, together with volunteers, have planted 75 trees in the past month on properties of Grand Rapids Public Schools.
The project was funded by a grant from the Wege Foundation and the USDA Forest Service Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and is part of Friends’ partnership with GRPS to plant trees on school grounds to combat emerald ash boer disease (EAB).
Prior to EAB’s arrival, Grand Rapids had 8,500 ash trees on public land. The disease significantly reduced that number with just 1,400 of the trees being treated. The rest have either been removed, died or are expected to die.
In 2017, Friends and GRPS committed to aiding the city of Grand Rapids by planting over 600 trees on school properties to replace the lost ash trees and help the city move toward its Urban Forestry Canopy goal of 40%, set by the city in 2015.
“Trees play a critical role in school grounds by cleaning our air, creating cool spaces for children to play, beautifying our community and enhancing health,” said Stephanie Adams, executive director of Friends of GR Parks. “Our longtime partnership with GRPS and our volunteers brings community together and highlights the importance of trees.”
Additional benefits of new trees include increased soil stability and erosion control, reduction in the urban heat island effect and expanded habitats for birds, squirrels and other wildlife. Trees also enhance outdoor recreation, improve both physical and psychological health and increase property values.
“Grand Rapids Public Schools is a national leader on green schoolyards, green school buildings and environmental education,” said Dr. Leadriane Roby, superintendent of GRPS. “This partnership with Friends of GR Parks and the city of Grand Rapids is yet another model example of our commitment to environmental sustainability.”