Volunteers plant trees in the Brys Park Arboretum on Arbor Day April 26.

Volunteers plant trees in the Brys Park Arboretum on Arbor Day April 26.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

St. Clair Shores celebrates Arbor Day with tree planting

By: Alyssa Ochss | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published May 3, 2024

 Bags of mulch sit by trees ready to be spread.

Bags of mulch sit by trees ready to be spread.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


ST. CLAIR SHORES — St. Clair Shores city officials and staff celebrated Arbor Day on April 26 by planting trees in the Brys Park Arboretum.

According to the St. Clair Shores website, the arboretum was established in the 1990s, and in 2022, the city approved an agreement with ReLeaf Michigan to reestablish it.

“As an educational space, the arboretum promotes an understanding of the relationship between plants, people and place through programs that integrate science. It also offers outreach services to community institutions and residents of St. Clair Shores and beyond,” the website states.

In order to be considered an arboretum, Councilman John Caron said there must be 25 tree species in the park. Right now, they have more than 40 tree species, and there are more than 200 trees total.

This is the first year that the city celebrated Arbor Day at the park, and Caron said having an annual event is a requirement of the arboretum.

“I think this is a good way for community members, city employees, we got council members out here to help out, but also help maintain the park, and just kind of add to the beauty of the city,” Caron said.

QR codes are attached to the newly planted trees with metal signs, and Caron said this code will take a visitor to the city website’s arboretum page where there is a list of all the trees, as well as a PDF map of the park.

“Each of them have the name of the tree and the QR code that can take you to more explanation of it,” Caron said. “And each of the tree varieties we have linked to the U.S. forestry department that gives a full description of the tree, what type of climate they can be in, what to expect.”

Bryan Babcock, director of the St. Clair Shores Department of Public Works, said the city has been successful in obtaining tree planting grants from the U.S. Forest Service. They’ve received both federal grants and DTE Energy tree planting grants in the past.

“We’ve received those grants for about four years in the total amount of $400,000, and as part of that tree planting grant, we committed to reinvigorating and reestablishing this arboretum,” Babcock said.

On Arbor Day, they planted four trees, and Babcock said they had a contractor who would plant around 10-12 more trees later.

“But the grant in total, I want to say, when we’ve received those, we’ve been able to plant about 300-400 trees throughout the city,” Babcock said.

Most of these trees go in the right of ways and in the parks. The city has a tree canopy map that shows where there is the most canopy and the least canopy in the city.

“And those show up on these maps as kind of like a red heat zone because there is no shade,” Babcock said. “So we focus on those areas of the city where there’s lacking tree canopy, and that’s where we go and plant the new trees at.”

Liz Koto, St. Clair Shores city planner, said the city of St. Clair Shores is a Tree City USA, which means they must recertify each year. According to the Arbor Day Foundation website, Tree City USA is a program that has recognized green communities since 1976.

“The Tree City USA program provides communities with a four-step framework to maintain and grow their tree cover,” the website states. “It also gives them an avenue to celebrate their work, showing residents, visitors and the entire country that they’re committed to the mission of environmental change.”

St. Clair Shores must plant a minimum number of trees and maintain a minimum number of trees based on the city’s population to keep its status as a Tree City USA.

“So it’s a per capita, it’s a dollar value per capita that we have to maintain each year to be able to maintain our Tree City USA certification,” Koto said. “And the Arbor Day Foundation is the group that manages the Tree City USA certifications. So that’s how the organization works.”

Koto also said Arbor Day was the first event she participated in with a local jurisdiction when she was 16 years old.

“I’ve been pretty much doing some sort of a planting most years ever since then,” Koto said.

Lillian Claycomb, chairperson of the St. Clair Shores Beautification Committee, said there are around seven members of the Beautification Committee that are still around who started the arboretum in the late ‘90s. They pushed for the park because they felt it was a park not many people knew about.

“We got, I think, about seven trees,” Claycomb said. “Most of them did survive.”

She added there are name plates still on some of the trees telling who donated them. She said most of the people who donated the trees did so as memorials.

“A lot of people donated them so that their grandchildren could come,” Claycomb said. “You know, St. Clair Shores is a very, even though you may not think so, a very close-knit community. A lot of people that live here grew up here, come back here, buy houses, raise their children here.”

Claycomb said that the committee is very thankful that they’ve brought back the arboretum.