Celebrating a Great Tree

On July 9 at 10:30a, Mayor George Heartwell announced the 2014 Mayor’s Tree of the Year in the North Monroe Business District. The 37-inch American Elm was celebrated (and hugged) by numerous city officials, neighborhood representatives, and volunteers from across the City.

American elms, native to Michigan and one of our tallest trees, can live for 150-200 years. This 37-inch diameter elm, likely at least 80 years old, deserves recognition for many reasons.


  • Years of industrial development and Dutch elm disease have taken their toll on the North Monroe business district’s tree canopy. One of the last remaining mature trees in the district, this elm’s massive green presence, providing welcome shade for pedestrians and cars, can be seen for blocks away on Monroe Avenue.
  • The tree provides enormous environmental benefits, including intercepting nearly 4,600 gallons of stormwater a year and improving air quality by absorbing ozone and pollutants.
  • Its canopy reduces energy costs on hot days and it also reduces atmospheric carbon dioxide by more than 1,400 pounds annually—approximately the amount of CO2 generated per passenger on a New York to Los Angeles flight.


The tree is also special because it reminds us of the importance of being good stewards of our urban forest. American elms once lined the streets of thousands of cities—before Dutch elm disease (a fungus carried by elm bark beetles) devastated elm populations in U.S. cities and many other countries. Of the estimated 77 million elms in North America in 1930, 75% succumbed to Dutch elm disease within 60 years. In Grand Rapids, it’s estimated that fewer than 400 American elms continue to grace our streets. So this tree is a survivor: it has withstood the Dutch elm onslaught, several street reconstruction projects, and decades of harsh urban growing conditions, including compacted soil, a small growing area, and the effects of road salt.

Careful stewardship of elms includes regular watering, preventive treatments, refraining from pruning during the growing season when elm bark beetles are most active, and monitoring. Through our stewardship of our urban forest, we can ensure that elms like the 2014 Mayor’s Tree of the Year will continue to make their amazing contributions to our community.

The Mayor’s Tree of the Year was launched in 2012 to promote community involvement in the City’s urban forest and to raise awareness of the importance of maintaining and preserving trees. “Trees are extremely important to our City,” Dotti Clune, Chair of the City’s Urban Forestry Committee said. “Not only do they provide immense environmental benefits, trees can help improve property values, reduce energy use, and make our neighborhoods more appealing – this is why the City of Grand Rapids has strongly committed to planting, maintaining, and protecting trees throughout our community.”

The City’s Urban Forestry Committee and Friends of Grand Rapids Parks launched the Mayor’s Tree nomination process on Arbor Day – April 25th. Citizens could nominate their favorite trees throughout the month of may by mapping the tree and posting a comment on the Grand Rapids Tree Map (HTTP://TREEMAP.URBANFORESTPROJECT.COM).

At the June 12th urban forestry committee meeting, committee members pored over eleven nominations to select this year’s winner. The tree is located at the corner of Mason NW and Monroe NW and was nominated by Vic Foerster, a local arborist.

Two runners up were also acknowledged by the committee: a common hackberry located near Paddock SE that was nominated by Jesse Lincoln and a London Planetree located in Martin Luther King Park that was nominated by Vince Lambert.


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