CEDAR RAPIDS — The city will recruit a full-time employee to help turn over a new leaf on replenishing trees downed in the Aug. 10 derecho.
The Cedar Rapids City Council approved a proposal Tuesday for the Parks and Recreation Department to add a full-time manager to oversee the ReLeaf program, the city’s multimillion-dollar initiative that will span several years to restore the lost tree canopy.
Parks and Recreation Director Scott Hock said the council’s OK was one of the first steps to creating the role, so the city has not done any recruiting for the position yet. That will likely begin after Jan. 1, he said.
The individual’s primary role will be implementing the ReLeaf program for trees in the public right of way and on public parks and property, he said, and he or she also will work on reforestation of heavier wooded areas as well.
Hock said the employee will work closely as a liaison with local nonprofit Trees Forever, which is helping find volunteers and fundraise.
The city estimates it lost at least 65 percent of its trees in the storm. Certified arborists are assessing the structural integrity of the trees still standing to identify limbs or whole trees that need to be removed.
“We’re just excited to try and move forward with establishing the canopy,” Hock said. “It was just a devastating loss, but it’s an opportunity for us to come back and plant more natives and try to think about tree variety as far as the species, so we’ll look to do that as best we can for the city and for the neighborhoods.”
Mayor Brad Hart said, “It’s incredibly important and I think it’s an initiative that the entire community will get behind.”
City Manager Jeff Pomeranz said Cedar Rapids is fortunate to have Trees Forever based locally with expertise to help with the “devastating loss.”
“When the derecho occurred, we lost just a tremendous number of trees in our community, and trees are a very important part of Cedar Rapids and they’re one of the things, one of the important aspects that makes Cedar Rapids a beautiful, beautiful community,” Pomeranz said.
Growing trees will take time, he said, so the city team thinks it’s important to quickly begin the replanting process while continuing to remove tons of tree debris.
Through the initiative, the city will not only replant public trees but also will work with residents to replant private trees, Pomeranz said.
He added that Jeff Speck, an expert in city planning that Cedar Rapids has hired to help with the initiative, will work with local landscape architect firm Confluence to draft a plan for replanting over the next six or so months.
“We’re excited about it, we’re energized by it and there’s nothing that can replace those beautiful trees,” Pomeranz said. “But we think with the right plan, we have the opportunity to really do something special and unique, and we look forward to that progress on this effort.”
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