Trees are invaluable. They offer shade on hot summer days, homes to our native critters and an aesthetically pleasing backdrop — but they give us so much more than that.
In fact, having a tree canopy increases property values, reduces pollution and helps improve the health of people who live nearby.
“Trees are really important for physical and mental health reasons,” says Gerard Santoro, the Program Director for Macomb County’s Parks and Natural Resources. “Trees are very effective at calming and bettering perspectives. (…) Moreover, they are great at absorbing water into their leaves and root system and putting it back in the atmosphere completely clean.”
These benefits drive the Green Macomb Urban Forest Partnership and its mission to increase the tree canopy in Macomb County from 19% to the USDA-recommended 40%.
What is Green Macomb?
According to Santoro, the Green Macomb Urban Forest Partnership started as a collaborative response to invasive species that devastated the trees in the area and an effort to improve local infrastructure and utilities.
“The lifespan of some of the trees in older communities in Macomb County have come to an end, so we’re cutting down these trees and planting the best species for the area,” Santoro explains. “We need to nearly double the tree canopy coverage for the community, so this is a pretty monumental program that’s probably going to be here for a long time.”
And thanks to a $250,000 grant through Consumers Energy Foundation’s Planet Awards, Santoro expects the benefits of the Green Macomb Urban Forest Partnership to spread well into the communities within the county.
“We felt (the Planet Awards) was an opportunity to move beyond some of the typical means that we’ve used and go after some substantial funding so we could support some communities with their tree planting efforts in public spaces,” he says.
How to get involved
The Green Macomb Urban Forest Partnership is currently targeting public parks, school yards and downtown areas that lack a substantial amount of tree coverage.
Families in the area may help this initiative by planting a preferred species of tree in their yards or in a public space.
It is imperative for families to pick a tree from the list of preferred trees on the partnership’s website, green.macombgov.org, because those trees are resistant to invasive reproduction, bug infestations or mold that will be harmful to the tree and the surrounding foliage.
Beyond planting a tree, families can also support community tree banks, look for programs that allow them to sponsor a tree or donate a tree to be planted in someone’s honor.
“You can ask almost any adult if they remember a specific tree in their life that impacted them and they’ll remember climbing a tree or a tree swing, or being at grandma’s picking apples off of her tree,” Santoro says. “Trees are truly a part of our culture and they’re something that kids can get really engaged with. If they plant their own tree and they see it grow, that’s an opportunity for them to take control and help their community.”
For more information on the Green Macomb Urban Forest Partnership, and for the full list of preferred trees for Macomb County, visit green.macombgov.org.