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Refreshing the Forest City

The pussy willows are budding out and early spring flowers in bloom; soon to be followed by the initial blush of green on the trees that intensifies into that rich verdant green we have all been waiting for. It is extremely refreshing, especially after a long winter. Refreshing! Maybe that is why Spring is my favorite time of year.

Through the winter months, it's easy to lose sight of the importance of a beautiful tree canopy but in Cleveland and elsewhere, there is a renewed interest in trees. The Arbor Day Foundation, which will hold its annual meeting this November in Cleveland, recently announced an initiative called "Time for Trees." This world-wide initiative is focused on planting millions of trees now for billions of lives tomorrow. The city of Cleveland also believes it is time for trees and has set a goal to nurture and restore the declining tree canopy by planting 25,000 trees each year. Ambitious, but doable with the immense interest and an an awesome group of conservation partners, including the Cuyahoga Soil & Water Conservation District, that are working hard to support tree education, planting and stewardship efforts.

The conservation partners are members of the Cleveland Tree Coalition, a collaborative group of public, private, and community stakeholders that have partnered with the City of Cleveland to rebuild the urban forest. The Coalition is working diligently to identify key decision-makers and to determine methods to incentivize proper tree planting and maintenance.

Many of those same partners are involved in the Forest City Working Group, which is focused on developing the Outreach and Education Strategy of the Cleveland Tree Plan, the Landmark Tree Program, and making Arbor Day an annual celebration in Cleveland. This year, the Arbor Day Task Force has scheduled an event planned on April 27 at Fullerton School in Cleveland’s Slavic Village neighborhood. Volunteers are asked to join the celebration by helping to plant trees from 9 a.m. – 1p.m. Register here.

Here at the Cuyahoga Soil & Water Conservation District, trees are always on our mind. Most of the staff completed the Sherwick Tree Stewards Training. As ardent tree advocates, the staff is exploring initiatives to increase interest in planting more trees, not just in Cleveland, but throughout the county. This year’s three Tree Huggers 101 Workshops are scheduled in May. This is a great opportunity to learn about trees, watch a planting demonstration and receive a tree to take home. See our event page for registration.

This year, the Cuyahoga SWCD is rolling out the NUTS Initiative - Native Urban Tree Starters. The staff is working with schools to get students outside for an opportunity to view their urban environment from a different perspective, learn about trees, collect nuts, and plant them. From their collected nuts, participants will grow tree seedlings that they will plant at their school and at other locations throughout the community.

Coming soon is the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). Cuyahoga SWCD will notify urban farmers and non-industrial private forest landowners about funding through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service for a program aimed at building soil health and increasing Cuyahoga County’s tree canopy.

Trees are refreshing in so many ways. Trees are good for your health, well-being and the environment. We need to plant more trees now, for the benefit of future generations. In all my years of working in the environmental field, it is refreshing to see so many people and organizations joining the efforts to advocate and educate about the importance of trees, as well as planting trees—especially where they are needed the most. Happy Spring.

Blog author: Janine Rybka, Director

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