ROOTS Kicks Off Collaborative Tree Planting Projects

City of Sheboygan. Photo credit: Restoration of our Trees Sheboygan

In the past two months, Restoration of our Trees Sheboygan (ROOTS) celebrated the kickoff of five private-public sector emerald ash borer (EAB) mitigation projects in four communities throughout Sheboygan County, resulting in the safe removal of hundreds of dead ash trees and their accelerated replacement in public parks and on public thoroughfares.

These projects are underway in the City of Sheboygan, the City of Plymouth, the City of Sheboygan Falls, and the Village of Elkhart Lake. Each of these communities was awarded grant funding by the ROOTS Community Investment Fund. It initiated its first round of awards earlier this year through its executive agent, the Sheboygan County Rotary Foundation.

In addition to the 2020 ROOTS Community Investment fund awards, these projects are supported by funding from the Sheboygan County Stewardship Fund, the City of Plymouth Utilities, Rotary District 6270 and Alliant Energy Corporation and with matching contributions of labor, material and equipment in each municipality. The projects are supported by private and public resources and community-based efforts to address EAB impact through close stakeholder collaboration, for a total project value of $165,500.

A diverse array of healthy, substantially sized trees will be planted in each project community. In Elkhart Lake, 50 trees are being planted in the Village Park Square, Lions Park, Fireman’s Park and along parkways and thoroughfares. The Sheboygan projects include the planting of 127 trees in Lakeview, Rotary, Cleveland, Veterans, Roosevelt and Evergreen parks. In Plymouth, 50 trees are being planted in Meyer, Lion’s, Rotary and Lone Oak Parks. In Sheboygan Falls, 60 trees are being planted in and around River Park. 

Municipal leaders from each community, along with representatives from the Sheboygan Rotary Club, other local Rotary Clubs, Rotary District 6270, Lakeshore Natural Resource Partnership (LNRP) and other project partners and supporters spoke to the significance of these projects and participated in tree planting ceremonies at the recent project kickoff events. 

Sheboygan Rotary Club ROOTS Coordinator Tony Fessler stressed the importance of urban and rural forest assets.

“Not only is a robust tree canopy essential to virtually all forms of outdoor recreation activities that Sheboygan area residents and visitors enjoy, it also positively impacts public and private property values, enhances community beautification, is essential to attracting and retaining our skilled workforce and directly supports public health through removal of tons of pollutants and climate warming CO2,” he said.

City of Sheboygan Falls. Photo credit: Restoration of our Trees Sheboygan.

Fessler also encouraged local businesses, foundations and individuals to donate to the ROOTS Community Investment Fund to support the next round of projects.

“This continued EAB mitigation campaign requires an all-hands-on-deck response by both the private and public sectors if we are to preserve our essential forests for present and future generations,” he said.

In addition to these exciting projects, ROOTS is also conducting tree inventories and developing EAB Recovery Plans in townships across Sheboygan County with funding from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. LNRP received funding through a DNR Urban Forestry Grant in 2019 to begin this work and in 2020 to support a second project phase, totaling nearly $50,000. This project will provide local leaders with solid plans for moving forward as they address EAB’s impact. 

With these plans in place, towns will be better positioned to receive funding to support EAB mitigation efforts and implement on the ground projects. The Urban Forestry Grant funds public outreach and education to assist residents in dealing with the overwhelming loss of ash trees on private lands as well. 

LNRP was also awarded $200,000 in federal funds through the U.S. Forest Service Grant to mitigate the impact of EAB in Sheboygan County. This project focuses primarily on tree planting to replace the loss of ash trees and restore function to the Sheboygan River watershed and the Lake Michigan basin. It will fund the planting of approximately 2,000 trees at sites on county-owned land, along with plantings in the townships as recommended by plans developed with the Urban Forestry Grant.

LNRP received an additional $350,000 in grant funding from the U.S. Forest Service to fund the Lake Michigan Coastal Wetland Infiltration Project. This project aims to plant another 7,300 trees at critical sites along the shoreline in Sheboygan, Manitowoc, Kewaunee and Door County.

The ROOTS initiative’s multi-faceted approach provides support to communities in the Sheboygan area whether they need assistance with planning or implementation. It also engages residents through outreach and education.

The unique public-private collaborative model of ROOTS leverages multiple funding sources that boosts local resources, stretching the value of each dollar provided by generous local donors, while also bringing in state and federal dollars for a greater collective impact and investment in our communities.  Each of these complementary projects contributes to the shared goals of helping our communities recover from the devastating effects of the EAB and restoring the valuable tree canopy across Sheboygan County.

ROOTS is looking for local philanthropists who want to make a difference in the communities in which we all live, work and play by contributing to an investment fund for additional public tree plantings and other management activities. Support from local businesses, foundations and individuals is needed, and donations of any amount are welcomed and appreciated. To learn more about the ROOTS initiative or make a donation, please visit ROOTSwi.org or email Tony at fessler.e.anthony@gmail.com or Kendra at kendra@LNRP.org

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