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Environmental Sustainability with GRPS

GRPS and Friends of Grand Rapids Parks team up to add new green infrastructure to schools across Grand Rapids

Volunteers and the Friends of Grand Rapids Parks (Friends) team have planted 75 trees this month on GRPS property thanks to a grant from the Wege Foundation and the USDA Forest Service Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Friends has a longstanding partnership with GRPS to plant trees in school yards to combat the devastating effects of the Emerald Ashboer Disease (EAB). Before EAB arrived, Grand Rapids inventoried 8,500 ash trees on public land. Since the EAB invasion, 1,400 ash trees were treated, but the remaining ashes have either been removed, have died, or are expected to.

Since 2017, Friends and GRPS committed to collaborating with the City of Grand Rapids to plant more than 600 trees on GRPS property to replace these ash trees and work toward the Urban Forestry Canopy goal of 40% set by the City in 2015.

“Trees play a critical role in school grounds by cleaning our air, creating cool spaces for children to play, beautifying our community and enhancing health.” Stephanie Adams, executive director of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks said.  “Our longtime partnership with GRPS and our volunteers brings community together and highlights the importance of trees.”

The City Commission adopted a Green Grand Rapids amendment to the City’s master plan in 2011 to activate the social, economic and environmental benefits of trees. Provisions to that amendment set sights on a 40 percent tree canopy goal for the city. The city’s current tree canopy cover is      roughly 35 percent according to the 2015 Tree Canopy Survey.

New trees provide myriad benefits, such as increased soil stabilization and erosion control, reduction in the urban heat island effect, and provision of habitat for birds, squirrels and other animals. Trees also provide a host of social benefits, including enhanced recreational opportunities, positive effect on physical and psychological health, an increase in community pride, and higher property values.

“Grand Rapids Public Schools is a national leader on green schoolyards, green school buildings, and environmental education,” said Dr. Leadriane Roby, Superintendent of Schools. “This partnership with Friends of GR Parks and the City of Grand Rapids is yet another model example of our commitment environmental sustainability.”

Founded in 2008, Friends is an independent, citizen-driven nonprofit with a mission to empower people to cultivate vibrant parks, trees and green spaces in Michigan’s second largest city. Friends works to mobilize volunteers, generate resources and raise awareness about issues that impact our urban parks and natural systems.

One of Friends’ main programs is the Grand Rapids Urban Forest Project which seeks to engage the entire community in growing a larger, healthier urban forest. This is an initiative championed by the City of Grand Rapids, which set a goal of achieving 40 percent tree canopy city-wide by 2025.

Volunteers interested in planting trees with Friends can connect via email at info@friendsofgrparks.org or by phone at 616-288-7209.

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