Cuyahoga County Tree Grants Lay a Great Foundation for the Future of Our Urban Forests

In his 2019 State of the County address, Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish pledged $5 million over five years to plant thousands of trees across the region and increase Cuyahoga County’s tree canopy. Executive Budish’s commitment established the Healthy Urban Tree Canopy Grant Program, a competitive grant program that is jointly coordinated by the Cuyahoga County Department of Sustainability, the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission, and the Cuyahoga Soil & Water Conservation District.

In 2019, the program funded twenty-six (26) projects across Cuyahoga County municipalities and nonprofit organizations for a total of $950,000 in funding, including eight grants to the Cleveland Tree Coalition, its members, and partners.

Cover image: Trees at the Michael J Zone Recreation Center in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood, an area that received a 2019 tree planning grant

The Cleveland Tree Plan 2020 update

One award was made to the Cleveland Tree Coalition (with support from Cleveland Neighborhood Progress) to update the Cleveland Tree Plan. In 2013, the Cuyahoga County Urban Tree Canopy Assessment showed that Cleveland’s tree canopy cover—the footprint that tree trunks, branches, and leaves make on the surface area of the city—averages just 19% of land area across the city. The assessment also showed that Cleveland’s tree cover varies widely among neighborhoods across the city, ranging from 4% downtown to 30% near city limits, meaning that neighborhoods and residents do not benefit equally from the benefits provided by urban trees.

In 2018, Cleveland Tree Coalition members helped the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission fund a follow-up countywide urban tree canopy assessment using the most recent aerial imagery. The Cuyahoga County Urban Tree Canopy Assessment Update gives a first glimpse at progress made to date in increasing urban tree canopy in Cleveland and is a great opportunity for us to reexamine the Cleveland Tree Plan.

The Cleveland Tree Plan update, with technical assistance provided by Davey Resource Group, will provide more detail about the 5% loss in tree canopy in Cleveland during 2011-2017 and will outline a plan for reversing canopy loss and making tree cover more equitable across Cleveland neighborhoods.

Cleveland Tree Nursery Feasibility Study

One of the 2019 Healthy Urban Tree Canopy Grant awards was made to Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, who, in partnership with Davey Resource Group and Tree Pittsburgh, is examining the feasibility of developing an urban tree nursery to address the region’s reforestation needs. The project seeks to identify whether establishing a tree nursery within Cleveland will aid in providing a cost-effective, steady supply of climate-appropriate nursery stock to support tree planting efforts identified in the Cleveland Tree Plan, while also offering an opportunity for workforce development and repurposing vacant land.

City and Neighborhood Tree Inventories and Plans

The 2019 Healthy Urban Tree Canopy Grant Program included awards for other planning grants, which lay the foundation for cost-effective tree planting and maintenance in the future. Five community development corporations in Cleveland are undertaking inventories of the trees in their neighborhood and planning for where they can make smart investments in tree canopy to address the needs of businesses and residents. Slavic Village neighborhood has already demonstrated the value of this planning work: they were able to pass inventory information on to the City of Cleveland Department of Urban Forestry, who used the information remove high-risk trees within the neighborhood.

The Cleveland Tree Coalition is also proud to be working in partnership with the City of Brook Park to determine how our work in Cleveland neighborhoods with low tree canopy cover resonates with other Cuyahoga County municipalities who also have low tree cover. Brook Park is developing a plan to beautify their city center, which includes a library, park, recreation center, and city hall, with the addition of many more trees.

Slavic Village tree inventory findings, 2019: condition and size classes of neighborhood trees. Credit: Bartlett Tree Experts

The Future

With the challenges of COVID-19, the next round of the Cuyahoga County Healthy Urban Tree Canopy Grant program is currently on hold. The first year of the program, however, has laid an important foundation for five Cleveland neighborhoods and multiple municipalities to make smart use of future urban forestry dollars to grow their tree canopy where it can provide the most benefit to residents and businesses.

Cleveland Tree Coalition Members & Partners Grants Summary

City of Brook Park Brook Park Urban Forestry Management and City Center Tree Plan Planning $27,000
City of Cleveland City of Cleveland – Public Tree Canopy Preservation Planning $47,356
Cleveland Neighborhood Progress The Cleveland Tree Plan 2020 Planning $36,623
Cleveland Neighborhood Progress Executing a feasibility study to create a business plan an urban tree nursery Planning $30,000
Cudell Improvement, Inc. Tree Planning in Edgewater, Cudell, and Detroit Shoreway Neighborhoods of Cleveland Planning $50,000
MidTown Cleveland, Inc Tree Plan for Community and Economic Growth in MidTown Cleveland Planning $29,000
Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation Old Brooklyn Community Forestry Plan Planning $30,000
Slavic Village Development Reforest Slavic Village Planning and Implementation $27,095
Western Reserve Land Conservancy Reforest Our City Tree Planting and Rehabilitation Implementation $39,750