Launching a New Project

When I started with Friends of Grand Rapids Parks in 2009, I was their first and only staff. I remember sitting down with some of the founding board members and community champions to talk about their hopes for the organization and what they saw as new opportunities for the community engagement. At some point during each of those conversations we would begin talking about trees. It quickly became clear that Friends of Grand Rapids Parks would play a role in protecting and growing trees in the City.

In our first couple years we’ve worked on several tree related issues: serving on the Emerald Ash Borer Task Force, helping neighbors start a small tree nursery at Garfield Park, planting trees with volunteers as part of Arbor Day celebrations, and hosting unique tree tours of cemeteries and parks. In 2011, we also had the opportunity to be part of some great brainstorming sessions with employees from GRID70 about how to make urban forest issues an “irresistible option” for people to help their community. These have all been very rewarding experiences for us and our volunteers. But one key learning of all this work was that our community capacity wasn’t at the level needed to really move urban forest issues forward.

That’s why we are so excited about the Urban Forest Project. It’s allowing us to deliberately deploy new tactics and strategies, and offer new ways for people and groups to partner. We believe it will build our community’s capacity to build a more sustainable city.

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