Are we close to our goal?

Flying over the City of Grand Rapids, you would observe an expansive forest. While our City contains many buildings, there are also numerous trees growing between our buildings that help shade our homes, streets, and businesses.

In 2008, a study completed by Grand Valley State University used geospatial technologies to estimate Grand Rapids’ tree canopy at 34.6%. Based partly on this study, the City of Grand Rapids adopted a 40% tree canopy goal to increase the stream of benefits that trees provide our community (e.g. air quality, stormwater interception).

Considering that the 2008 study used aerial data from 2005, the 34.6% canopy measurement is nearly 10 years old and has not been measured since the 40% canopy goal was adopted. Complicating matters, our community has experienced both emerald ash borer and a significant uptick in urban infill development, which likely will have implications for tree canopy coverage.  Although there has been extensive tree planting over the past several years, these young trees will not reach maturity for decades.

This year, with the support of the Dyer-Ives Foundation, Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, in partnership with the City, is embarking on an updated study of Grand Rapids’ tree canopy. Completed by Plan-It Geo, this study will re-measure Grand Rapids’ tree canopy levels and analyze coverage by various geographies such as neighborhoods, census blocks, and watersheds. This canopy study will also include a Prioritized Tree Planting Plan, which will identify ideal locations for new trees.

“Based on the recent changes in our community, and challenges such as emerald ash borer and climate change, I expect that we have lost tree canopy since 2008.” Said Dotti Clune, Chair of the City’s Urban Forestry Committee.

“This study will give us an opportunity to not only know how we’re progressing towards community goals, but also where in our city we might have gained or lost tree canopy. Such information can help us identify new strategies to continue to grow our urban forest and achieve the 40% tree canopy goal.” she added.

Once the study is complete, Friends of Grand Rapids Parks plans to embark on a Neighborhood engagement project and planning effort that will help neighborhoods understand the data, identify community goals, and develop strategies to expand tree canopy in their neighborhood.

“Since Green Grand Rapids, these tree canopy numbers have not really been broken down to a neighborhood-level scale.” Said Steve Faber, Executive Director of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks.

“We expect to be able to use these data to engage neighborhoods, discuss their tree canopy, and help develop strategies to meaningfully impact the trees in their community.”
Moving forward, Friends hopes that the data and report generated from this study continue to help frame community goals, inform policy decisions that protect mature trees, and excite additional efforts to expand Grand Rapids’ tree canopy.



Results from the 2008 Grand Rapids Canopy Study.


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One thought on “Are we close to our goal?”

  1. Ted Hurja says:

    Great information and vision and hopes for our future.
    As a Friend, a Registered Forester, Licensed Nursery
    Owner, Forestry Consultant and concerned Grand Rapids area resident for 50 years I will continue to be involved in planting and maintenance or our Urban Forest. I would welcome a chance to meet the new
    director and share ideas.

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