Mayor’s Greening Initiative to add 350 trees to Burton Heights

Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, left, will help Friends of Grand Rapids Parks with two tree plantings in the spring and one in the fall, and they are slated to add a total of 350 new trees to the Burton Heights/South Division corridor. Courtesy Friends of Grand Rapids Parks

Friends of Grand Rapids Parks and the city of Grand Rapids are inviting volunteers to join the sixth annual Mayor’s Greening Initiative this spring and fall.

This year, two tree plantings will take place in the spring and one in the fall, and they are slated to add a total of 350 new trees to the Burton Heights/South Division corridor.

The family-friendly volunteer event has been restructured for 2021 to accommodate COVID-19 safety protocols and the dates are as follows:

  • Saturday: Volunteers will plant 25 trees in Plaster Creek Family Park and 25 trees in surrounding streets in celebration of Arbor Day from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • May 8: There will be a tree giveaway. Trees provided will be for planting on the private property of Burton Heights residents.
  • Oct. 8-9: All Grand Rapids families are invited to volunteer for a two-hour shift and help add 250 new trees to the streets of Burton Heights.

The spring tree planting will kick off at Plaster Creek Family Park, at 2401 Buchanan Ave. SW, and will start with a 50-tree planting event by community members in the neighborhood surrounding the park near the southeast side of Burton Street.

The Mayor’s Greening Initiative is a longstanding partnership between the city of Grand Rapids, Friends of Grand Rapids Parks (Friends), the city’s Forestry Division and local neighborhood associations to plant hundreds of trees in a different neighborhood each year with volunteers.

“Tree equity is a matter of economic and health equity for all,” said Stephanie Adams, executive director of Friends. “Everyone should have access to the benefits of tree-lined streets because trees reduce crime, air pollution and heat while also improving physical, emotional and mental health.”

Key to the success of the initiative is collaboration with residents, according to Friends, which hosts numerous free events over the year to get to know residents and works closely with businesses and community centers to learn about neighborhoods’ needs.

Trained arborists inspect possible planting sites to ensure new trees won’t interfere with power lines, driveways or walkways. Then, Friends’ team connects with residents to answer their questions and educate them about the life of the tree.

Not only does Friends offer the opportunity to plant trees alongside its trained team, but the organization also guarantees watering. Friends’ youth Green Team waters all Mayor’s Greening Initiative trees every other week during the summer for two years.

The spring and fall plantings with a limited number of volunteers are part of an effort to keep volunteers and community members safe amid COVID-19. All tools will be distributed to ensure they are properly sanitized, a 6-foot distance will be maintained for plantings and advance virtual training will be given for volunteers to learn how to plant trees. All ages are invited to volunteer and plant trees. No experience is necessary, all tools are provided, and volunteers may also bring their own.

“Trees play a critical role in cleaning our air, reducing stormwater runoff, beautifying our neighborhoods and lowering stress,” Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said. “I hope community members will join me again this year in making our city a greener, more sustainable community.”

The inaugural Mayor’s Greening Initiative tree planting in 2016 — launched to help the city reach its Green Grand Rapids goal of a 40% urban tree canopy — planted more than 400 trees across the city through the efforts of volunteers and Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. The city’s current tree canopy cover is roughly 35%, according to a 2015 Tree Canopy Survey.

The Mayor’s Greening Initiative engages the entire community in the city’s tree canopy goal. This year’s event is sponsored by ITC Holdings, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, John Ball Zoo, Secchia Family Foundation, Wege Foundation, Farmers Insurance, Consumers Energy Foundation, Spectrum Health, Boxed Water, Grand Rapids Community Foundation, Pioneer Construction, Meijer, Acrisure, Bartlett Tree Experts, Fishbeck, Bissell, AHC Hospitality, Irwin Seating, Adventure Credit Union and OST.

Volunteers may register online at Friends of Grand Rapids Parks’ website. More information on how to volunteer is available by emailing Claire Fisher at or calling (616) 288-7209.

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