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Grosse Pointe City’s tree programs honored

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published December 17, 2019

 Grosse Pointe City forester Brian Colter accepts Keep Michigan Beautiful’s President’s Award for the City in Lansing Oct. 18.

Grosse Pointe City forester Brian Colter accepts Keep Michigan Beautiful’s President’s Award for the City in Lansing Oct. 18.

Photo provided by Brian Colter

GROSSE POINTE CITY — While the tree programs in many cities go dormant during the winter, Grosse Pointe City’s continues to do maintenance work.

Certified arborist Brian Colter, who works as the forester for both Grosse Pointe City and Grosse Pointe Park, said that the City is in the midst of its “aggressive street tree maintenance program,” and this winter, every City-owned tree on Lincoln Road, Washington Road, Rivard Boulevard and University Place will be trimmed.

“We have a five-year (trimming) cycle,” Colter said. “We do one-fifth of the City each year.”

Because of that, when the area was hit by high winds during the last week in November, Colter said, the City experienced no damage from limbs falling from City trees.

The City’s dedication to its trees recently was acknowledged by Keep Michigan Beautiful, which this fall gave the City’s Grosse Pointe Urban Forestry Commission its highest honor, the President’s Award. Colter accepted the award in Lansing Oct. 18.

“I was really happy to be able to get some recognition for the City,” Colter said. “I think urban forestry is sometimes overlooked. I know the City of Grosse Pointe takes it very seriously. I’m glad they were rewarded for their managing of the urban forest.”

The City established the Urban Forestry Commission through a resolution passed in December 2016. A five-member volunteer commission was appointed in January 2017, chaired by Rick Whitney. Then-City Councilwoman Sheila Tomkowiak served as the council liaison in 2017.

“That’s a big deal to create a commission that’s dedicated to trees,” Colter said.

Among the commission’s many accomplishments are a survey of all City-owned trees that was completed in March 2018 and that Colter continues to update; the creation of an informational and fundraising campaign, ReLeaf Grosse Pointe, in August 2017; Arbor Day celebrations; and multiple tree plantings.

In July 2019, the Urban Forestry Commission received a $3,000 grant from the DTE Energy Foundation’s Tree Planting Grant Program, which is administered by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Colter said the City was one of only six communities in Wayne County to receive one of these grants. The City received the maximum grant amount available, he said.

Colter said the City just planted another 13 trees in mid-November. He said the winter is actually a good time to plant trees — unless the ground is frozen — because the trees are dormant at this time of year.

“We plant a lot of trees,” Colter said. “We tried to plant a diversity of species.”

That’s because many tree diseases and destructive insects — such as the emerald ash borer — are species-specific.

Colter said Grosse Pointe Park has also received a number of Keep Michigan Beautiful awards for its dedication to tree planting and maintenance. The Park doesn’t have a specific urban forestry commission; instead, the Park Beautification Commission plays that role by planting trees and celebrating Arbor Day each year with a poster contest for local children.

Even before the City hired Colter in 2016, he said the City had a five-year tree trimming cycle. He believes that’s one of the reasons the City’s trees are in such great shape. When he did the tree inventory, Colter said, he discovered that 97% of City-owned trees were “in good or excellent condition.” Maintenance also improves safety, since tree trimmers find and remove broken, hollow, dead or damaged limbs before they fall and possibly injure a person or property.

“They’ve really earned this award,” Mayor Sheila Tomkowiak said during a Nov. 18 City Council meeting. “Thank you for all of your hard work.”

Tax-deductible donations can be made to ReLeaf Grosse Pointe through the City’s nonprofit City of Grosse Pointe Foundation at Grosse Pointe City Hall, 17147 Maumee Ave., Grosse Pointe, MI 48230.