Dave Richel, left, and John Ehlke, right, both of the Department of Public Services’ Parks & Forestry Division, plant a tulip tree for Arbor Day at the senior community center April 29.

Dave Richel, left, and John Ehlke, right, both of the Department of Public Services’ Parks & Forestry Division, plant a tulip tree for Arbor Day at the senior community center April 29.

Photos by Patricia O’Blenes


Rain does not thwart Arbor Day spirit in Royal Oak

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published April 30, 2021

 Royal Oak Department of Public Services Director Aaron Filipski, left, gives longtime Royal Oak resident and volunteer Bill Muller, right, a plaque honoring the Royal Oak Nature Society’s service to the city April 29.

Royal Oak Department of Public Services Director Aaron Filipski, left, gives longtime Royal Oak resident and volunteer Bill Muller, right, a plaque honoring the Royal Oak Nature Society’s service to the city April 29.

 The Royal Oak Arboretum surrounds the Leo Mahany/Harold Meininger Senior Community Center on three sides and features a wildflower garden and a collection of native trees.

The Royal Oak Arboretum surrounds the Leo Mahany/Harold Meininger Senior Community Center on three sides and features a wildflower garden and a collection of native trees.

Advertisement

ROYAL OAK — While officials made the call to cancel the public Arbor Day ceremony the morning of April 29 due to the weather forecast, a handful of residents still trekked out to witness the planting of a tulip tree on the grounds of the senior community center.

Department of Public Services Director Aaron Filipski also presented the department’s first Community Partner Award to Bob Muller, a longtime volunteer with the Royal Oak Nature Society and Royal Oak Historical Society Museum, for the nature society’s contributions to the city’s parks and programming.

Muller said he just planned to help plant the tree, but was pleasantly surprised to receive the gesture of appreciation for the nature society’s volunteerism.

“It feels really great. We’ve been doing (programs at Royal Oak’s nature preserves) about 20 years,” he said. “All I ever wanted to do as a kid was go play in the woods anyways, so it’s not like somebody’s twisting my arm to do this stuff.”

The Royal Oak Nature Society works to protect, maintain and promote the usage of the city’s two nature preserves, Cummingston Park and Tenhave Woods, which resemble the pre-settlement vegetation of Oakland County because they have never been developed.

Since the 1970s, Muller said, volunteers have catalogued native Michigan trees in the two conservancy parks. One of the nature society’s ongoing projects is the Royal Oak Arboretum, which surrounds the senior center on three sides and features for educational purposes a wildflower garden and a collection of native trees not found in the city’s nature preserves.

“Our goal is to have all the trees native to the state of Michigan that aren’t in the park,” Muller said. “We probably added 15-20 varieties. We’re within about 18, but we’ll probably never get there.”

He said nurseries do not carry some of the more rare varieties of native trees, so volunteers have to locate those trees, harvest their seeds and attempt to grow their own trees that way.

For 44 years, the city of Royal Oak has earned the designation as a Tree City USA, fulfilling requirements that call for certain tree policies and plantings. For the past 12 years, the city has planted trees for Arbor Day at the Leo Mahany/Harold Meininger Senior Community Center.

“It’s a good space to be able to host an event and a good place to see an exhibit of (native plantings),” Filipski said. “Arbor Day is a big deal in the city. It’s in our namesake — Royal Oak. It’s very important to the community and something that’s important to us at the DPS.”

Chris Hartwig, who serves on the Royal Oak Environmental Advisory Board, came out to the April 29 Arbor Day planting.

“The schools used to be involved in the Arbor Day ceremony, but COVID kind of changed all that,” Hartwig said. “We just learned at our meeting last night that the city is going to be undertaking a new tree-planting program.”

She said she was excited to hear about the long-term goal of increasing the city’s tree canopy to cover 40% of the city’s footprint. The tree canopy in Royal Oak currently sits around 30%, according to the most recent count.

“Trees are being cut down because of development, and on my block, they are just being cut down because of old age and people aren’t always replanting,” Hartwig said. “We’re very excited to hear there’s going to be a push to plant more trees. That’s going to be a massive effort.”

The Leo Mahany/Harold Meininger Senior Community Center is located at 3500 Marais Ave., near Crooks Road and Lexington Boulevard.

For more information, call the Department of Public Services at (248) 246-3300.

Advertisement