Cuyahoga County is again accepting applications for projects focused on tree planting and canopy improvement in the area.
Applications for the district’s fourth round of funding offered under the Healthy Urban Tree Canopy program must include plans for tree planting activities. The funds can also be used to facilitate planning or care for existing trees, said Susan Infeld, director of planning initiatives for the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission.
“This grant program was designed to encourage the growth of a healthy urban tree canopy, given that we’re an urban county that’s quite developed,” she said. “The grant provides applicants with funding…for planting and planning projects.”
Planning projects involve gathering information on where trees are missing and where tree planting should take place. This provides cities with a guide to improving tree canopies over a five or 10-year period, Infeld said.
Funds can also be used to help care for existing trees that may need pruning or pruning.
About 6,750 trees have been planted since the canopy program began in 2019, but it may take eight to 10 years for the tree to mature and contribute to the total canopy.
2019 data showed that approximately 34% of the county is covered by tree canopy. That equates to about 96,000 acres, with another 371,000 acres could be covered in tree canopy by adding trees in undeveloped areas.
“It was a nationwide number,” Infeld said. “If you look at individual communities, some of them have lower canopy coverage, some have higher, but nobody is at 70% or 80% levels.”
Tree canopies can decline for a number of reasons, from invasive pests and poor maintenance to home and highway construction, said Dan Meaney, manager of information and research services for the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission.
“Areas that are more densely built-up generally have less tree canopy,” Meaney said. “I think you could say building these things has been a decline for decades.”
Cleveland’s canopy was below the county average at 18.9%, according to county data, while surrounding areas such as Lakewood, Parma and East Cleveland’s canopy ranged from 21% to 40%.
“You can see the city of Cleveland has been hit pretty hard,” Infeld said. “As for some of the suburban communities, some of them would have lower incomes and some would not. We’re just not where we’d like to be nationally.”
A lack of tree cover can lead to public health problems and even high utility costs, Infeld said.
“Not everyone in our district has air conditioning, so it’s important to have trees so that every building can provide shade,” she said. “And for the owners of those buildings who pay the utilities, it’s going to help them save on their electric bills.”
The grant program aims to give cities and communities another source of funding to focus solely on planting and tree care, Infeld said.
“For communities that might have had budgetary issues that didn’t allow them to plant or replace trees,” Infeld said, “the idea was that this funding would provide them with another revenue stream that wouldn’t drain their general coffers.” [and] would allow them to plant trees.”
Applicants can apply electronically until June 8th.