The Grand Rapids Urban Forest Project seeks to engage the entire community in growing a larger, healthier urban forest.

The 2011 Green Grand Rapids amendment to the City’s master plan established a 40% tree canopy goal in Grand Rapids. Recognizing the need to involve citizens in expanding the urban tree canopy, the City of Grand Rapids and the Friends of Grand Rapids Parks launched the Urban Forest Project with core funding from the Grand Rapids Community Foundation.

We seek to offer a diverse menu of opportunities for citizens to learn about and directly impact the City’s urban forest. From planting to pruning, we can each do our part to maximize the tree canopy in all parts of the city so that everyone in Grand Rapids can experience the cultural, social, economic, public health, and environmental benefits of trees.

What can you do?

There are lots of ways to start:

TREE CANOPY

34.6%

current canopy cover for GR

7,032

acres possible planting area

40%

Canopy cover goal (adopted by city)

9,775

approximate acres of land covered by trees in 2015

$2.64 m

annual ecosystem service benefits from trees

1,640

acres of land covered by trees needed to reach 40% canopy cover goal

Trees return $3.60 for every dollar the city spends by:

  • Intercepting stormwater
  • Conserving energy
  • Removing air pollutants
  • Reducing and storing CO2

Partners & Sponsors

Many thanks to the generous folks who help us thrive so we can do the same for the trees in our urban forest.

PARTNER
NATIONAL AFFILIATE
FUNDING PARTNER
FUNDING PARTNER
NATIONAL AFFILIATE
PARTNER
FUNDING PARTNER

Have questions? Here’s a little background on the trees of Grand Rapids and what makes them so important.

what is the urban forest project?

what is an urban forest?

why are trees important?

what is an urban forest canopy?

why do we have a canopy goal?

who set the 40% canopy goal?

how close are we to our goal?

what kind of trees are in our urban forest?

Additional information relating to specific issues with trees, tree care, or related questions can be found in our GUIDES AND FACT SHEETS.

What is the urban forest project?

The Urban Forest Project is an initiative of the FRIENDS OF GRAND RAPIDS PARKS that seeks to engage the entire community in growing a larger, healthier urban forest. Core partners include the CITY OF GRAND RAPIDS, the URBAN FORESTRY COMMITTEE, with support from the GRAND RAPIDS COMMUNITY FOUNDATION.

What is an urban forest?

If you were flying over Grand Rapids on a midsummer’s day, what might you see? Buildings, streets, homes, parking lots, and highways. But you would also see a rich canopy of trees. In some parts of town, the billowing leaves of the city’s 1.6 million trees cloak the area in green, while in others—for example, downtown—barely a patch of green is to be seen.

From this aerial point of view, you might think of Grand Rapids as a city carved out of a forest, and in some ways, it is. All of those trees—in parks and cemeteries, along streets and in backyards, in golf courses and along rivers—make up our urban forest.

Why are trees important?

They provide important economic, environmental, and quality of life benefits to each of us, including:

READ MORE ABOUT THE BENEFITS OF TREES.

What is an urban forest canopy?

The canopy includes the total city’s land area covered by each tree’s leaf area. It is a ratio represented by a percent of the total land covered by trees.

Why do we have a canopy goal?

Quantifying our canopy helps us understand if we are gaining or losing trees over the years. It also helps us understand the benefits provided by our urban forest. Grand Rapids has a goal to achieve 40% tree canopy.

Who set the 40% goal?

The City’s Urban Forestry Committee recommended adoption of the goal in the 2009 Urban Forest Plan. The 40% number was set based on then-recommended best management practices for a City of our size and location. The City of Grand Rapids officially adopted the goal as part of the Green Grand Rapids plan in 2011.

How close are we to our goal?

In 2015, Grand Rapids completed a tree canopy analysis and we had a 34.6% tree canopy. This percentage stayed the same since the previous analysis in 2008 where we were also at a 34.6% tree canopy. This did not come as a surprise to us because between 2008 and 2015 the exotic invasive insect Agrilus planipennis, commonly known as the emerald ash borer, was spreading through the city limits. It is our goal to reassess our urban forest canopy cover every 5-10 years to chart our progress toward the 40% goal.

What kinds of trees are in our urban forest?

The most common species in the Grand Rapids Urban Forest are American elm, white ash, black locust, box elder, and sugar maple. There are 75 different species planted along our streets, including Norway maple, honey locust, green ash, sugar maple, and red maple. More than 50% of these “street trees” are maples—Norway, sugar, red, silver, and hedge.