Heights Tree People receives $18,000 grant

Heights Tree People volunteers Laura Marks and Bill Hanavan.

The Heights are about to get a little greener. On Feb. 28, Heights Tree People learned that the Ohio Division of Forestry had awarded an Urban Forestry Grant of $18,000 to the nonprofit, all-volunteer organization that plants free front-yard trees in Cleveland Heights and University Heights. By doing so, the group is working to restore lost tree canopy.

The grant, which comes from federal Inflation Reduction Act funds, will pay for planting 50 trees each season for three planting seasons—that covers 18 months. The program focuses on urban areas that are disadvantaged as measured by the federal government’s Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool and the EPA’s Environmental Justice and Screening Mapping Tool (EJScreen).

“Cleveland Heights as a whole qualifies, and with this grant, Heights Tree People will make a special effort to plant in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in the city," said the group's president, Julie Gierke.

Studies show that trees in urban areas have tremendous benefits beyond their natural beauty. They make people happier and healthier. Trees have a calming effect on people, reducing stress and related diseases, including heart attacks, strokes, anxiety, and depression. They've even been shown to reduce crime. They lower noise levels, provide privacy, and reduce the heating effects of pavement and buildings. Trees save residents money on air conditioning bills in the summer, and they can offer a windbreak during the winter. Tree roots intercept and filter water runoff that winds up in Lake Erie. Foliage helps filter dust and other contaminants from the air while releasing oxygen. In general, trees increase neighborhood beauty, stability, and property values.

Cuyahoga County surveys show that Cleveland Heights lost 8 percent of its tree canopy—the area covered by leaves, branches, and trunks of trees when viewed from above—between 2013 and 2019.

Why? Some of the trees planted in the early days of Cleveland and University Heights are reaching the ends of their healthy lives. The cities also have lost many trees to development, storms, disease, and pests such as emerald ash borer.

Heights Tree People has spent the last few years working to restore the canopy by planting free trees in front yards, with an emphasis on large shade trees. The group planted its 1,000th tree last fall. The Ohio Division of Forestry grant, will enable the group to plant at least 150 more trees at no charge to homeowners or residents.

If you want a free tree for your front yard, go to www.heightstreepeople.com and fill in a simple form. A volunteer will contact you to arrange a time to take a look at your yard with you and talk about what you want. Then, expert volunteer planters will show up with a tree, plant it, mulch it, and put up deer protection. They'll even leave you with care instructions—mostly, just add water from time to time.

Heights Tree People can also provide speakers to address service groups or congregations. And, of course, charitable donations to Heights Tree People can help bring even more trees to the community.

Pat Hanavan

Pat Relf Hanavan is a writer, a volunteer at Fairfax Elementary School, and secretary of  Heights Tree People. Eric Cohen is a gifted intervention specialist at Fairfax, a CH resident, and Heights Tree People board member.

Read More on Non-Profit & Groups
Volume 17, Issue 4, Posted 10:44 AM, 03.28.2024