From Rust Belt to Green Belt-More Trees Please!

Those of us working in conservation understand the importance of trees and their benefits, both human and environmental. In Cuyahoga County an analysis of the urban tree canopy, revealed that the canopy is shrinking. Once known as the Forest City, Cleveland’s tree canopy has gone from abundant to abysmal, shrinking from 19% to 17% in less than a decade. Cuyahoga County’s overall canopy is only estimated at 35% and not ideal. As expected, the city and inner ring communities have the greatest canopy loss, although development pressure in outlying areas has revealed a reduction of canopy in those areas as well.

In 2019, Cuyahoga County established the Healthy Urban Canopy Grant Program. Cuyahoga SWCD is an active member of the planning committee, which developed the grant program, evaluated the proposals, and helps to monitor planting activities. Since the SWCD staff firmly believes that trees are the original “green infrastructure” we are adamant about the importance of properly planting and maintenance to help grow trees!

If you Google “worldwide tree planting initiatives” you will find that the desire to plant trees has gone global. Cuyahoga SWCD has encouraged tree plantings in riparian areas for many years. In recent years we have provided opportunities for tree plantings and tree giveaways. So far this year 1903 trees have been planted. To get more trees on the ground, the SWCD Board approved creating the Legacy Tree Fund. Donations to the fund, which can be made in honor of friends or as a family legacy, will be matched by the board. Funds will be used exclusively to purchase and plant trees by staff and volunteers, and with the generous support of four communities that are collaborating with the District on this program.

Growing trees in our highly urban County is a perfect long-term goal for the SWCD. Trees provide additional habitat, better aesthetics, help clean the air, reduce stormwater runoff, and cut down on accelerated erosion. We are committed to doing our best to transform Northeast Ohio from the Rust Belt to the Green Belt!

Blog author: Janine Rybka, Director

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