116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - The team leading the effort to 'ReLeaf” the community after last summer's derecho downed most of the city's tree canopy has created a website to collect citizens' ideas about reviving the lost urban forest.
The website - confluence.mysocialpinpoint.com/releaf-cedar-rapids - is one way the ReLeaf initiative is gathering public input for the long-term, multimillion-dollar, public-private partnership to replenish the trees lost in the Aug. 10 storm.
This process, spanning several months, will include virtual meetings, polling and questionnaires to identify the community's priorities and draft a plan to guide replanting.
On the website, residents can rank 13 principles - such as climate action, resilience, species diversity and beauty and character - and say what is most important to them, said Patrick Alvord from the local landscape architecture firm Confluence.
Among the principles is the question of equality versus equity in replanting - whether trees should be replanted in an equal canopy across neighborhoods, or whether low-income neighborhoods should be prioritized in recognition that the benefits of trees may be particularly impactful in areas where residents struggle.
'We've known for a long time that underserved neighborhoods tend to be under-canopied as well, or not have access to outdoor areas in the same way that other neighborhoods do,” Alvord said.
'And so, we as a design team, and quite frankly the city and Trees Forever, we're all equally engaged in this idea that equity needed to be a primary driver - if not the primary driver - for how we prioritize replanting.”
One of the website's key features is a mapping tool that will help the team quantify tree loss on private property.
People may use markers to indicate where they lost a tree, where they would like to plant a tree and where they have planted a tree, and where they can leave a general comment. Property owners may also enter their precise property address.
The team can use that crowdsourced information to reach out to citizens to inform them of tree adoptions or other programs, Alvord said.
And with private trees also contributing to the overall tree canopy, helping advance replanting in those spaces will be key, he said.
Trees Forever Founding President Shannon Ramsay encouraged residents to plant high-quality trees and good native species on their property and to learn how to properly plant and care for them.
'We're not suggesting anyone wait to plant,” Ramsay said.
Ramsay late last year gave an 'educated estimate” that 100,000 trees were lost in the Cedar Rapids metro area during the derecho.
Plan by October
City officials have estimated 70 percent of the public tree canopy was downed by the derecho's hurricane-force winds.
'Our goal is not to do a one-to-one replacement, but over the long term, to substantially increase the urban tree canopy,” Alvord said.
The website will be updated regularly with new surveys and engagement opportunities, as well as other information, to keep residents involved, Alvord said. Citizens can review meeting materials and learn what's being done.
The overall ReLeaf plan, guided by public input, will include detailed replanting plans for public spaces, including 38 city parks, and identify the quantity and species to plant in various time frames.
Cedar Rapids has partnered with Confluence, Marion-based nonprofit Trees Forever and urban planner Jeff Speck to form the replanting plan by October.
Cedar Rapids is contributing funds to the plan while partners fundraise private money.
The City Council in February gave $500,000 to Trees Forever to craft the urban reforestation plan for public and private spaces.
The new fiscal year budget includes $1 million for the ReLeaf initiative - the first of multiyear expenditures - and $24,000 for watering new trees during their first two years.
Replanting is expected to take at least 10 years, city Parks and Recreation Director Scott Hock said.
What you can do
If residents want to help clean up a park or volunteer in some other way, they can go to email@example.com or check the city's Municipal Volunteer Program page at cedar-rapids.org/discover_cedar_rapids/municipal_volunteer_program/index.php/.
Comments: (319) 398-8494; firstname.lastname@example.org