Place an order to help more trees grow in Macomb County

By: Kristyne E. Demske | C&G Newspapers | Published March 30, 2018

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MACOMB COUNTY — The combination of the impact of the emerald ash borer and the end of the life cycle for thousands of silver maple trees means that the tree canopy in southern Macomb County is quickly dwindling.

City and county leaders are trying to combat that decline, but they need residents’ help. 

“It’s more important for us to educate homeowners and private landowners about the importance of increasing our tree canopy cover than it is for us to even do municipal tree plantings,” said Gerard Santoro, program manager for land and water resources for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development. “Less than 15 percent of the property out there is municipally owned.”

Green Macomb was created by the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development to support green infrastructure efforts that strengthen the economic vitality, quality of life and environmental well-being of the region.

Southern Macomb County communities have lost many thousands of trees to the emerald ash borer and are now set to lose silver maple trees that were planted between the 1940s and 1960s as they reach the end of their life cycle, said St. Clair Shores Department of Public Works Director Bryan Babcock. 

“We’re going to see, real soon, those coming down in the thousands because they’re dying,” he said. “We feel it’s important to work as a team to get new growth going in our communities and in our urban forest.”

Santoro said that Green Macomb, with the help of the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, discovered that the portion of Macomb County south of the Clinton River would need to approximately double its current number of trees to come close to meeting guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Trees help manage stormwater, eliminate soil erosion, increase home values, manage utility costs and make for more sustainable places for people to live, he said. 

That’s why Green Macomb and the Blue Water Conservation District collaborated on the  first countywide Arbor Day celebration and tree sale in 2017. More than 25,000 trees were sold during that event, Babcock said. 

This year, residents can place pre-orders for trees and shrubs at green.macombgov.org by April 5 that can be picked up April 27-28 at the Warren Civic Center fountain square in front of Warren City Hall, 1 City Square, north of 12 Mile Road and east of Van Dyke Avenue. 

A variety of trees, seeds, and fruit and vegetable plants are available to be ordered. Apple, pear and peach trees start at $17; red bud, lilac, dogwood, asparagus, strawberry, raspberry and grape plants start at $5; and oak, maple, pine and spruce trees start at $7. 

Trees and plants will also be sold at the Arbor Day celebration at the Warren Civic Center 9 a.m.-4 p.m. April 27 and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. April 28, but residents may not get the variety and amount they wish without placing a pre-order. 

“They’re small, manageable trees that you can plant yourself with just a shovel,” Babcock said. 

St. Clair Shores has won $208,535 in grants to plant trees in the city’s right-of-ways over the past three years. The city has planted more than 1,600 trees over the last five years.

Babcock said that trees are important to keep down utility bills by providing shade, but they also help prevent flooding, since a tree can capture up to 3,300 gallons of rain each year. 

The trees and shrubs available for sale are all highly recommended for urban areas, Santoro said. Because they are bare root stock and sold through Green Macomb, they are available at reduced rates. For more information or to download a preorder form, visit www.green.macomb gov.org.