GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A greening initiative has been increasing the number of trees in Grand Rapids over the years.  For the 23rd year, the city has been recognized with a Tree City USA award.

The city planted about 1,400 trees in 2020 and plans on matching that number this year.

“The city has a tree canopy goal of 40%,” said Joe Sulak, parks superintendent for Grand Rapids. “Meaning that if you were to look at the city from the sky, we want to have at least 40% of the city covered with trees.”

Right now, the city is at 34%, and it will take until at least 2025 to reach that goal. The budget is around $100,000 to make this happen.

“The challenge is finding those spaces that work the best,” said Sulak. “We have a lot of public space, but we also have a lot of private space in the city that we would love to promote and plant trees on.”

Trees intercept stormwater, clear out air pollutants and produce oxygen.

“People love trees,” he said. “A lot of the advocacy that has gotten us here is due to the residents of Grand Rapids.”

Those partners come in the form of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks and Boston Square Neighborhood Association, which make sure that every ward goes green.

“It is a beautiful thing to see the community come together to make sure that the area of the city where it’s primarily black and brown people living are getting their fair share of beauty and health and things that are going to make our lives better all the way around,” said Victor Williams, the founder of the Boston Square Neighborhood Association.

The partnerships are made possible through volunteers who planted more than a dozen trees in an hour on the city’s southeast side.

“It’s really nice to get your hands dirty with people you barely know,” said Quinlan Clark, a local volunteer. “You get to bond over something. Secondly, you’re helping the community out. Thirdly, and I guess most importantly, you’re helping the Earth out.”

Because a tree planted makes everyone’s life a little healthier.

“Take better care of your environment because your environment, at the end of the day, takes care of you,” said Clark.

“The best thing is you plant a tree and stand in its shade right away,” said Sulak. “Then maybe you can bring your kids or grandkids and say, ‘Hey, I planted that tree however many years ago. You’re welcome.”

Arbor Day is Friday, and the city’s celebrating by planting 50 trees at Plaster Creek Park this weekend.