116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Ahead of the fall tree planting season, city of crews are grinding thousands of tree stumps and planting new trees to replenish those lost in the 2020 derecho.
City officials announced in March that Cedar Rapids crews would handle most of the stump-grinding effort since no private business was able to take on a project in the scale the city needed. Crews from Grass Lawn Service are taking on some the work.
This effort began on the heels of the Cedar Rapids City Council’s adoption of the ReLeaf plan in February. The plan will guide tree replanting along Cedar Rapids’ public streets and in city parks over the next 10 years. The plan is a model for urban reforestation that focuses on equity.
What’s happened since?
The public and private crews have removed more than 4,500 stumps and restored more than 2,800 sites this summer, according to Kylie Petersen, who’s coordinating the effort by the city’s Public Works and Parks and Recreation departments.
Since the Aug. 10, 2020, derecho, 6,863 stumps have been removed, said Parks and Recreation Director Hashim Taylor.
That means the number of stumps removed in the past six or so months has nearly doubled the number removed in the 18 months after the derecho, thanks to the internal partnership.
“I'm really thankful that we're a part of and really working together as a team to make this happen for the residents and the community here in Cedar Rapids,” Taylor said.
The crew size each day depends on weather conditions, equipment availability and other projects that are underway. Petersen said crews are focusing on the ReLeaf planting sites and areas where streets are being repaired in the local-option sales tax-funded Paving for Progress program.
Crews are now beginning to remove stumps in zones where there will be fall tree plantings, she said, and then start working in areas identified for 2023 Paving for Progress construction projects.
Work is happening in zones, which Petersen said “makes the equipment mobilization a bit more effective on our end.” After a stump is removed, she said seeding crews come in to restore the site.
Taylor said the stump removal process also is helping with removal of the emerald ash borer beetle, an invasive species that is killing ash trees.
Progress can be viewed at cedar-rapids.org/stump_info.php.
Nearly 2,500 ReLeaf trees have been planted since the derecho, according to the city’s dashboard, which is available under the “Progress” tab at CityofCR.com/ReLeaf.
The ReLeaf plan, a partnership with local nonprofit Trees Forever, calls for the planting of 34,227 street trees and 8,275 park trees.
The plan calls for planting more than 5,000 trees a year. But it allows for a ramp-up period in the first two years.
This year, 1,700 trees have been planted along public rights of way and about 400 trees have been planted in the parks, according to Carole Teator, the city’s ReLeaf manager.
Plantings are spread across the city, Teator said, and prioritizes areas hit hardest by the derecho and those with low tree equity scores in areas with vulnerable populations.
She said several new plantings are in the southwest quadrant, especially in and around the Jones Park area, and some in the northeast quadrant around Noelridge Park.
The plan suggests policies for tree planting, including:
- Plant large-species trees 30 feet apart instead of 40 feet and small-species trees 20 feet apart.
- Plant more trees as part of economic development projects, especially when trees are destroyed in the construction process.
- Plant trees in parking lots but in a way that eases snowplowing.
Teator said the language for the policies still is in the works and should come before the city council by the end of the year. However, she said, the city is largely already following the guidelines.
What can you do?
For residents looking to plant new trees in their own yards, Teator suggests they consult the master tree list — available at the city’s ReLeaf website — that prioritizes trees native to Iowa.
The plan says, “enough with the maples already” — Cedar Rapids is overpopulated with maple tress — and list other species property owners can plant. Having a more diverse tree canopy will improve its resilience to issues like the emerald ask borer.
Residents also can apply for a city permit to plant in the public rights of way if they don’t wish to wait for their ReLeaf trees to come. They also can help water newly planted trees, especially in the tree’s first two years, to keep them alive and healthy.
People also may volunteer by contacting Trees Forever, which has hired a volunteer coordinator.
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