Reforesting The Forest City – The Cleveland Tree Plan

In Fall 2015, Cleveland’s Office of Sustainability, the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, LAND studio, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress and The Holden Arboretum joined forces to create a new Cleveland Tree Plan. The plan recognizes the significance of trees in our communities.

Since then, the city and its partners, including Holden Forests and Garden, have been working to improve the city’s tree canopy. Cleveland, which was once called the Forest City, has seen a decrease in its urban forest over the past several decades. Each year, according to Sustainable Cleveland 2019, an estimated 97 acres of tree canopy is lost. At that rate, the canopy will drop to 14 precent by 2040.

Why is this a critical issue for the community? According the the Cleveland Tree Plan’s 2015 report, “even at its low level, the current tree canopy provides Cleveland with more than $28 million in services each year.” Planners were able to use the U.S. Forest Service’s i-Tree modeling nd the EPA’s Environmental Benefits Mapping and Analysis program to determine that Cleveland’s tree canopy:

  • Intercepts 1.8 billion gallons of rainwater every year (value: $11 million).
    Removes just under 830,000 lbs. of air pollution every year (value: $1.8 million).
  • Saves residents and business owners $3.5 million in energy costs each year.
    Reduces stress from high heat days, which has significant impacts on human health and energy needs.
  • Removes 42,000 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year (value: $800,000). Additionally, across the lifetime of the canopy, Cleveland’s trees store another 1.3 million tons of carbon, valued at over $25 million.
  • Improves public health by preventing approximately 1,200 incidents of health problems across a range of issues, including asthma, obesity, diabetes, and mental health (value: $6.9 million).
  • Increases property values by an estimated $4.5 million. This, in turn, increases city revenues.
  • Improves business districts by attracting consumers that shop longer and spend more.
  •  Helps maintain habitat for wildlife, both aquatic and forest, which is critical to wildlife conservation.
  • Prevents erosion and high sediment levels in waterways and shipping channels.
    Builds stronger communities and revitalizes neighborhoods.
  • Creates safer spaces for the public by slowing traffic speeds, lowering stress, and providing buffers for pedestrians.
  • Blocks noise and pollution by almost 50 percent for those living near highways.*

As the canopy continues to decrease, so do the benefits it provides. On Arbor Day, April 29, 2017, Mayor Frank G. Jackson announced that the city’s goal is to grow the tree canopy from 19 to 30 percent by 2040, with the long-term goal of reaching a 40 percent canopy in the city.  Sandra Albro, a Holden Forests and Gardens researcher, is serving as one of the co-chairs of the Cleveland Tree Coalition, which is tasked with planting more than 50,000 trees in Cleveland by 2020.

In addition to Albro’s leadership, Holden Forests and Gardens is supporting the reforestation of the city by partnering with the Western  Reserve Land Conservancy have partnered to provide Sherwick Tree Steward Trainings. During the training program, citizens learn how to plant, care for and maintain trees, which is critical to the success of the Cleveland Tree Plan and our collective reforestation work. Together we can reforest the Forest City!

*Information from The Cleveland Tree Plan, Oct. 2015.