A crew member plants a tree at the Detroit Zoo, part of the Detroit Zoological Society’s commitment to plant 2,000 trees through 2022.

A crew member plants a tree at the Detroit Zoo, part of the Detroit Zoological Society’s commitment to plant 2,000 trees through 2022.

Photo provided by the Detroit Zoo


Detroit Zoo commits to planting 2,000 trees

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published April 29, 2021

 A crew member helps unload tree saplings to be planted at the Detroit Zoo.

A crew member helps unload tree saplings to be planted at the Detroit Zoo.

Photo provided by the Detroit Zoo

ROYAL OAK — The Detroit Zoo lost many of its historical trees over the past decade, so the Detroit Zoological Society recently budgeted approximately $200,000 to plant 2,000 trees on its campus and in the tri-county area through 2022.

The initiative aligns with the zoo’s Green Journey, an effort to address climate change and its effects, and the DZS collaborated with ReLeaf Michigan to see the project grow into fruition.

DZS Chief Operating Officer Gerry Van Acker said the zoo has already begun planting, and the goal is to plant 1,000 trees this year and 1,000 trees next year.

According to the zoo, the average tree absorbs 48 pounds of carbon dioxide and 1,673 gallons of stormwater every year. By adding hundreds of trees to the Detroit Zoo’s existing tree population of 7,000, nearby communities will reap the benefits of improved air and water quality.

Trees and other vegetation also reduce higher than average temperatures in urban areas by providing shade, with shaded surfaces potentially 20-45 degrees cooler than peak temperatures of unshaded surfaces.

Besides providing shade, native species of trees, especially dogwood, offer shelter and food for birds, insects and squirrels. The animals then disperse the trees’ seeds and allow new saplings to grow.

“We are meticulously selecting a variety of species that will add value and biodiversity to our campus, as well as focusing on trees whose clippings make great snacks for the animals who live at the Detroit Zoo,” Van Acker said in a prepared statement.

“We’ve lost quite a few of the oldest trees. We knew we needed to replant,” he said in a phone interview. “We have a master plan for the zoo, which really dissects the zoo into various ecological regions,” with trees from countries and continents congruent to zoo animals’ habitats.

Van Acker said the zoo has so far planted 300 trees, with another 200 scheduled to be planted this spring and 500 scheduled to be planted in the fall. Next year, he said, would follow a similar tree planting schedule.

“We’ve got a plan for the large parking lot too,” he said. “It’s about 15 acres there, and there aren’t any trees in it. We’re going to (saw cut the parking lot), irrigate it and plant trees in the middle of the lot, so it will give people more shade.”

During Earth Week this year, April 19-23, visitors to the Detroit Zoo could participate in GreenFest, presented by DTE Energy, the zoo’s annual Earth Day celebration. Guests learned how to cultivate their own green space and took home saplings and pollinator seeds.

The Detroit Zoo partnered with ReLeaf and the Greening of Detroit to assist in the conservation and welfare of urban wildlife, with projects in Oak Park and along a drainage culvert in Macomb County.

ReLeaf Michigan, since 1988, has planted over 30,000 trees on public land in more than 400 communities and held workshops to increase awareness of the important benefits that trees provide.

ReLeaf Michigan did not respond to a request for comment by press time. For more information, visit releafmichigan.org or call (800) 642-7353.

The Detroit Zoo is located at 8450 W. 10 Mile Road, west of Woodward Avenue.

For more information, visit detroitzoo.org or call (248) 541-5717.