Working Together to Revive the Forest City

Western Reserve Land Conservancy, Union Miles Development Corporation and Bank of America partner to plant 100 trees at Jack Rabbit Hill

CLEVELAND (October 9, 2020) – Today, from 9:30am to 12:30pm at 9601 Way Avenue in the Union Miles neighborhood of Cleveland, Western Reserve Land Conservancy and the Union Miles Development Corporation will partner with local residents to plant 100 trees on a former construction debris landfill on Cleveland’s east side. All participants and attendees are required to wear a facemask, practice social distancing, and follow COVID-19 tree-planting protocols. Credentialed reporters are invited to attend.

The tree planting and maintenance was made possible by a generous grant from Bank of America.

“We’re rebuilding our Forest City with every tree we plant,” said Elizabeth Grace, director of urban fundraising at Western Reserve Land Conservancy. “To successfully increase Cleveland’s tree canopy to a healthy 30 percent coverage, partnerships are key. The Union Miles Development Corporation and Bank of America understand this and are doing their part to get these trees planted and maintained at Jack Rabbit Hill.”

On October 10th, residents of the Union Miles neighborhood will also be eligible to receive free trees through the Arbor Day Community Canopy program that they will plant in their yards. Trained Tree Stewards will be on hand to assist with planting trees as needed.

The Union Miles neighborhood of Cleveland was once a bustling community of immigrants who worked in the local steel mills. After the Great Depression, the collapse of the mills, suburbanization, and the Great Recession, the neighborhood was plagued by abandonment and disinvestment.

Improving the climate and our community are vital. That’s why this initiative with Western Reserve Land Conservancy and Union Miles Development Corporation is so important – Jeneen Marziani, Ohio market president for Bank of America

Today Union Miles is a community facing poverty, unemployment, crime and poor health of its citizens. African Americans make up 95 percent of the population in Union Miles, more than 69 percent live below the poverty line, and the median household income is below $24,000. But the work of the Union Miles Development Corporation (UMDC) is transforming the neighborhood through innovative programs, successful physical development and comprehensive community outreach.

“We are so excited to be working with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy and Bank of America for the opportunity to bring trees into the Union Miles community,” said Amanda Cramer, planning project manager for UMDC. “This project will be very complimentary to the work of Union Miles Development Corporation in improving the quality of life for our residents.”

To address the challenges of vacant land and a depleted tree canopy, Western Reserve Land Conservancy and Union Miles Development Corporation met with neighborhood residents to plan a project that would plant 100 trees at Jack Rabbit Hill. The one-acre site has been identified through a community planning process as an excellent location with great potential for green space and reforestation.

Western Reserve Land Conservancy hosts dozens of tree plantings each year. (Photo courtesy of Western Reserve Land Conservancy)

In December 2019, the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission released an updated Urban Tree Canopy Assessment for the City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County, which shows that the tree canopy cover of both the City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County decreased since 2013 and remains far below levels considered adequate to receive the health and wellness benefits of trees.

Tree canopy cover – the layer of leaves, branches, and trunks of trees that cover the ground when viewed from above – in Cuyahoga County decreased 6 percent, and in the City of Cleveland decreased 5 percent. Compared to urban areas nationwide, Cuyahoga County tree canopy cover is lower than the U.S. average of 39 percent, and Cuyahoga County may be losing tree canopy at a faster rate than average.

“Improving the climate and our community are vital. That’s why this initiative with Western Reserve Land Conservancy and Union Miles Development Corporation is so important,” said Jeneen Marziani, Ohio market president for Bank of America, “This program addresses a critical need of an underserved Cleveland community by increasing a tree canopy that will cool urban areas and create more sustainable solutions for future generations.”

Following the planting project, Western Reserve Land Conservancy’s Tree Crew will water the trees once a week during growing season for three years, provide annual mulching, and ensure the trees are staked and tied. The Land Conservancy will also work with Union Miles Development Corporation and block club members to promote ownership of the project. Residents are encouraged to communicate regularly with Tree Crew members about the health of the trees, supporting their survival.

Western Reserve Land Conservancy has revised our tree planting protocols to limit personal interaction and the sharing of tools and other items in order to limit the spread of COVID-19. You can view our tree planting demonstration here: https://youtu.be/K3ABRUpvbUo.

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