Reforestation run: Holden Forests & Gardens wraps up a busy season of planting trees

Holden Forests & Gardens (HF&G) has been busy this past planting season—working to fulfill its mission to plant 15,000 trees by 2025 to save Northeast Ohio’s dwindling tree canopy.

“We’ve had a great planting season this Fall,” says Jill Koski, HF&G president and CEO. “We’ve planted more than 1,400 trees in Cleveland, and more than 250 in Cleveland this fall alone. If you think about it, we’re definitely on track.”

Jessica Miller, a Community Forester with Holden Forests & Gardens shows some local children how to mulch after planting a tree at Carver Park Estates on Unwin Road.Since launching its People for Trees campaign in February, Koski reports they have received 1,100 pledges to plant almost 4,000 trees in Northeast Ohio. Most pledges are for one or two trees in the yard, but Koski says other individuals and organizations have committed to planting more than 100 trees.

“Now that the planting season is done, we’ll follow up with those individuals who pledged,” promises Koski, adding that a $200,000 grant from the Cleveland Foundation to support the People for Trees program has been helpful in getting the word out.

Holden Forests & Gardens has also been working on tree giveaways and plantings in partnership with local organizations, which will add another 1,400 trees to the official People for Trees count. On Arbor Day alone this past spring, HF&G gave away 800 eastern redbud seedlings on both the Holden Arboretum and Cleveland Botanical Garden campuses.

“In 2021, HF&G has helped plant 1,718 trees and shrubs; has given away 333 trees and 800 seedlings; sold 257 trees; and received pledges to plant 3,800 trees,” says Sandra Albro, HF&G’s director of community partnerships. “Our goal for this year was to plant 3,000 trees in Northeast Ohio, so we have been blown away by this response to our initiative.”

This fall—prime tree planting season—has been particularly busy. In November, Holden’s Tree Corps partnered with Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) to plant 75 trees in three public housing estates on Cleveland’s east side—the Friendly Inn Settlement and Carver Park Estates on Unwin Road in MidTown, and Heritage View Homes in Kinsman.

As part of the project, Holden Tree Corps members trained public housing residents who are part of CMHA’s Green Team to plant and care for trees at these properties. The Green Team members earn supplemental income and Koski says they hope the experience will inspire some of them to pursue careers in tree care.

“We’re not just getting trees in the ground,” says Koski. “We’re providing training with groups at CMHA to care for these trees.”

Last May Holden Parks Trust partnered with the Home Repair Resource Center in Cleveland Heights to distribute 233 large potted trees.Just last week, Burten Bell Carr Development, Inc. and HF&G were at the East 39th Street Community Garden to plant five fruit trees to mark a new initiative to reforest the Central neighborhood— where only 12% of the area is shaded by trees.

Financial support from Cuyahoga County, under County executive Armond Budish’s Central Surge plan, will be used to train Central residents to plant and care for new trees in the East 39th Street Community Garden, operated by Andrea Johnson and the Center for Intellectual Property, Technology, and Telecommunications, Inc. (CIPTT).

The 39th Street Garden grows fresh produce for donation to local seniors, churches, and residents. The five fruit trees—serviceberry, linden, and tupelo—will enhance the garden’s offerings while providing beauty and shade to the neighborhood.

“These are good trees, they’re not little saplings,” says Koski of the recent plantings. “I’m really pleased. It’s been really rewarding, humbling, and motivating.”

Additionally, HF&G is working with the community development organizations in MidTown, Old Brooklyn, Central-Kinsman, and Detroit Shoreway-Cudell-Edgewater to plant street trees and give away trees for planting in residential yards, as well as provide tree care classes.

Earlier this summer, at Wade Oval and the Cleveland Cultural Gardens, Holden Parks Trust partnered with University Circle Inc. and Doan Brook Watershed Partnership to plant 63 trees, including include several species of oak and Kentucky coffeetree—funded by Cuyahoga County Healthy Urban Tree Canopy initiative, which provides $1 million in funding each year to support local tree projects.

In May HF&G partnered with the Home Repair Resource Center in Cleveland Heights to distribute 233 large potted trees consisting of five species that are well adapted to Northeast Ohio—bur oak, American elm, Ohio buckeye, eastern redbud, and apple serviceberry.

The planting of a Jesse Owens oak at the Rockefeller Park Lagoon on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.And in April, several organizations celebrated the planting of a Jesse Owens oak at the Rockefeller Park Lagoon on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevardcloned from the now-84-year-old oak that was planted in Old Brooklyn at James Ford Rhodes High School in 1937 as a symbol of athletic and cultural triumph. 

Koski says they plan to do it all over again next year—as soon as the spring planting season begins. The goal for 2022 is to plant and receive pledges for 3,000 new trees in Northeast Ohio and to be better stewards of the trees that the region already has.

Anyone in Northeast Ohio can take the People for Trees pledge to plant at least one tree next year. “We’re super excited that so many people are interested in planting trees,” Koski says.

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.