By: Mike DeWitt
What started as a routine tree removal ended up igniting an inner-passion in Wyoming resident, and former city commissioner, Greg Bryan.
“If the city was smart, they would’ve replaced my tree and this group never would’ve been created,” exclaimed Greg with a tinge of humor in his voice before getting serious once again. “When the city came in and chopped down my trees, I said to myself, ’this has to stop!’ So, I called [city council member] Kent Vanderwood and told him we have to do something.”
That ‘something’ has morphed itself into a group called the ‘Tree Amigos,’ a Wyoming, Michigan citizens committee supporting a vibrant tree canopy. The group started as a Neighborhood Watch campaign to raise awareness of the Gypsy moth blight in the Oriole Park neighborhood.
Now the group has a new focus: to establish a new commission centered on planting trees in the City of Wyoming. Ultimately, the goal is to have Wyoming become the 120th city in Michigan, and part of 3,400 communities nationwide, to become a part of Tree City USA. In order to achieve status as a member of Tree City USA, a community must meet four core standards of sound forestry management: maintaining a tree board or department, having a community tree ordinance, spending at least $2 per capita on urban forestry, and celebrating Arbor Day.
A tree planting program is nothing new for Wyoming. In fact, a program existed back in the 70’s to plant and install trees under contract by the township. However, the program ran out of money due to budget cuts and the city hasn’t planted trees since.
“There’s so much beauty and serenity in trees and the wildlife that comes with them. There are also huge health benefits as well,” explained Tree Amigos member Stelle Slootmaker on her decision to help lead the group.
Those benefits? Well, trees are extraordinarily energy-efficient. Amazingly, 100 trees remove 26 tons of CO2 and 300 pounds of pollutants from the air. They provide the net cooling effect of 1,000 air conditioners! The same number of trees can also intercept more than 200,000 gallons of rainwater each year, reducing the need for storm water controls, and providing cleaner water.
On top of reducing costs for the city over time, trees can also add market value to residential real estate. One large tree can add 10 percent.
While trees are helpful from a numbers perspective, they also benefit in ways that are more difficult to measure. Trees build strong ties to neighborhoods and communities. They help promote better psychological well-being and make people happier. More trees are linked to faster hospital recoveries, increased employee productivity, less crime, and reduction in stress and anxiety.
According to one survey, having on average 10 more trees in a city block improved how someone rated their health by a level comparable to an increase in annual personal income of $10,000, moving to a neighborhood with a $10,000 median income, or being seven years younger.
With all the benefits of trees, it seems like a no-brainer for the city to implement a tree planting plan. However, whenever there’s work to be done, there needs to be someone willing to take up the new workload. It’s always easier said than done.
That’s where the Tree Amigos come in. The group has already put in the time and effort to research the steps to make Wyoming a part of Tree City USA. They have also taken the time to present the idea of forming a new commission to the City Council. Most importantly, the Tree Amigos aren’t simply dropping the workload for someone else to pick up. They’re looking to be on the front line as volunteers wherever this effort takes them.
“It’s important to Greg. He represents a neighborhood that needs help with trees,” said Wyoming City Council Member Kent Vanderwood. “It’s the right response for us to get behind as a city. Whatever I can do to help, I’m going to do.”
Two members of the Tree Amigos, Stelle and Arborist Bill Brown, gave a formal presentation at the City Council meeting on February 8. They are meeting with the Council again this Wednesday, February 24, to talk about the next step.
Bill is hoping everyone is on the same page going forward, “I grew up in Wyoming. This is what I do everyday. I understand the importance of trees. It’s something Wyoming needs now.”