116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — As of the two-year anniversary of the derecho that razed 65 percent of Cedar Rapids’ tree canopy, donors have contributed more than $2.8 million toward the ReLeaf Cedar Rapids plan that guides tree planting efforts throughout the city.
Marion-based nonprofit Trees Forever, which led the fundraising campaign, said in a statement that the top donors included the Hall-Perrine Foundation ($900,000), Alliant Energy ($550,000), Collins Aerospace ($250,000), ITC Midwest ($200,000) and Confluence Landscape Architects ($200,000).
The $2.8 million is in addition to $10 million already committed over 10 years by the city of Cedar Rapids, Trees Forever said. By last year’s one-year anniversary of the storm, private investors had contributed $1 million, The Gazette reported last year, and corporate and individual donors had raised over $11 million for the ReLeaf plan. The plan is estimated to cost about $37.5 million in its projected 10-year life span.
“It's amazing how this message continues to resonate. This is about beautification, it's about economic growth, and it's about the health of the population — that is evergreen,” said Trees Forever President and Chief Executive Officer Kiley Miller.
City staff, contractors and Trees Forever volunteers have planted at least 2,470 trees along streets and in parks since the Aug. 10, 2020, derecho, Trees Forever said. Of those trees, 977 have been planted since the ReLeaf plan was adopted in February — amounting to more than half of the plan’s replanting goal for 2022.
Around 8,200 trees have also distributed to private landowners in Cedar Rapids since the storm, Trees Forever said. This fall, it will be piloting a program that will appoint tree captains in neighborhoods around the city to encourage more replanting on private property.
“There is a decade’s worth of work to do, but the second anniversary of the derecho is the right time to take stock and take pride in what has been accomplished,” Miller said in a statement.
Watering will be key
Planting the trees is just one step of the canopy recovery process. Keeping them alive is another effort in itself — one that requires equipment, teamwork and, of course, water.
By the fourth year of the ReLeaf plan, there will be about 10,000 young trees on public property in need of regular watering, said Carole Teator, the city’s ReLeaf manager. Each tree needs 10 to 20 gallons about every week, depending on the amount of recent rain.
To help accommodate the demand for watering, more watering crew members will be needed, Miller said. Residents are also encouraged to water trees on the rights of way on their properties.
More equipment will help, too, especially those with innovative techniques to reduce watering needs. For instance, trees planted this year have “treegators” attached, which are green bags designed to fill with water and then gradually release it to trees’ root zones. Crews are exploring options with other watering technologies as well, Teater said.
“The best thing that we can do to recover from the derecho is plant trees,” she said. “The second best thing is to make sure that they're watered so that they get well-established and can grow into the mature trees that we want them to be in a few dozen years.”
Brittney J. Miller is an environmental reporter for The Gazette and a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues.
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