Growing up green: Rid-All to start urban nursery in effort to preserve tree canopy

 As the tree canopy in Northeast Ohio continues to shrink at an alarming level—especially in urban areas—Rid-All Green Partnership in the Kinsman neighborhood has partnered with the Cleveland Tree Coalition to encourage Clevelanders to plant a few trees, and turn around the decline in the tree canopy with a new urban tree nursery on its property.

Rid-All Community Tree DistributionThe Tree Coalitiona collaborative group of public, private, and community stakeholders, along with the City of Cleveland working to rebuild our urban forest—released its most recent Tree Canopy Progress Report, which shows the Northeast Ohio tree canopy declined by 5% from 2011 to 2021. 

The city's tree coverage is currently 18% and could reduce to 14.7% by 2040 if action isn't taken. In urban neighborhoods the decline is more severe—losing an average of 97 acres of trees per year.

“Cuyahoga County lost 6% tree cover in six years, taking cover from 37% to 35%, and Cleveland lost 5% tree cover in six years, going from 19% [cover] to 18% cover,” says Sandra Albro, director of community partnerships for Holden Forests & Gardens.

Several groups have worked hard over the last six years to turn these numbers around, and Rid-All Green Partnership is taking that push to the next level with its plans to develop an urban tree nursery on three acres at its Kinsman farm.

The tree nursery will scale up over four years to produce approximately 7,000 container trees annually to support local reforestation efforts.

Rid-All cofounder Randy McShepard says the nursery will produce trees in three-gallon pots that will help community and conservation groups distribute trees for planting, as well as draw a customer base in Cleveland and suburban areas of Cuyahoga County—creating jobs and revenue. 

McShepard says the concept of a tree nursery in the Kinsman neighborhood has been a long time in coming to fruition—first proposed in Burten, Bell Carr Development’s  2006 Ward 5 Forgotten Triangle Master Plan.

“The site we proposed for a tree farm goes all the way back 15 years or longer,” McShepard explains. “It was part of the Burten, Bell Carr innovation zone—[the land] was designated for agricultural use and the original plan was to do a tree nursery.”

Rid-All’s farm started 10 years ago on 1.5 acres of land in the area that BBC designated an Urban Agriculture Innovation Zone. Today, Rid-All has grown to an 18-acre urban farm that grows fresh produce and is a staple in the neighborhood.

In fact, McShepard says Rid-All has made tree planting a priority for some time now—with established trees on the property. “We always thought it would be a good idea for trees,” he says of the 18 acres. “We have a tree line with more than 20 fruit trees and 22 berry bushes—many of them grown to scale and producing fruit. It was our way of showing you can grow trees in urban communities.”

Rid-All Community Tree DistributionMcShepard says that after the tree nursery is up and running, in about a year, they plan to begin
 planting about 1,000 trees in a selection of varieties. He says they will also hire a tree nursery manager—someone who is knowledgeable about growing trees from seeds.

McShepard says he hopes to have everything ready by spring, with the first trees planted next fall. “We need to build the infrastructure and we’re getting staff in place,” he explains.

In the meantime, Rid-All has been promoting tree planting by hosting tree giveaways at the farm. At the last event on Saturday, Oct. 9, Rid-All partnered with Verizon and the Arbor Day Foundation to distribute 150 free trees to residents in Northeast Ohio.

Rid-All’s urban nursery will help all of the organizations working to rebuild the tree canopy. In March, the Tree Coalition announced its aggressive plan to rebuild the tree canopy to 30% by 2040.

That plan calls for Tree Coalition planting 20,000 new trees by 2025. Holden Forests & Garden's Albro says that means current trees need to be preserved and we need to plant 361,000 new trees—or 28,000 to 30,000 trees a year for the next 10 years—to reach that goal.

“That number of trees both replaces trees that are lost on an annual basis as well as adds additional trees to take us up to 30% cover,” she explains. “It’s estimated by the Cleveland Tree Coalition that we’re planting 5,000 trees per year among all partners and the City of Cleveland’s additional commitment.”

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.