The Rapidian

Citizen foresters cultivate young trees, new skills at Martin Luther King Park

On June 17 Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, a local nonprofit, engaged local community in forestry training. It's a part of their Urban Forest Project, an initiative partnered by the city of Grand Rapids.

Friends of Grand Rapids Parks

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The first cherry blooms off a recently planted fruit tree at Martin Luther King Park.

The first cherry blooms off a recently planted fruit tree at Martin Luther King Park. /Kendra Vanderlip

On June 17 several volunteers arrived at Martin Luther King Park to take care of some young fruit trees that had been planted by The Grand Rapids Urban Forest Project a few weeks prior. The volunteers participate in a variety of forester basics such as weeding, mulching and staking. 

Chelsea Spencer, Taylor Flamont and Patrick Shults all have different reasons for participating in the Grand Rapids Urban Forest Project but they all find the work fulfilling. It is Spencer's first time out and she is enjoying being able to work outside in the sun. Flamont has several forester classes under her belt already and at the end of the day she is looking forward to learning how to stake a tree. Shults is an intern with Friends of Grand Rapids Parks and he is excited about sharing his knowledge with the volunteers and learning from the staff this summer.

The Grand Rapids Urban Forester Project has been established for a little over two years. It was created in partnership with the City of Grand Rapids with the intention of growing a healthier urban forest. 

"We offer many different opportunities for people to engage in their community," Lee Mueller of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks says. They offer four basic classes year round as well as the occasional special workshop.

The Grand Rapids Urban Forest Project is offering its next class July 15 at the Blandford Nature Center. It is free to Friends of Grand Rapids Parks members, and a suggested $5 donation for everyone else.

The Grand Rapids Urban Forest Project is an initiative of the Friends of Grand Rapids Parks. It is set up to allow local citizens to engage within their own communities as well as be educated on the basics of forestry. A citizen forester is an educated individual who is trained in the basics of tree planting, identification and care. Certified citizen foresters, individuals who have completed four classes with Friends of Grand Rapids Parks and participated in two volunteer opportunities, have opportunities to lead in bigger projects and be advocates in the Grand Rapids area for neighborhood tree projects.

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