BY KRISTI FISH | MIRROR REPORTER — In an effort to increase the tree canopy in Maumee, city officials are calling on residents and Maumee City Schools students to participate in the Maumee Tree Canopy Project.
Maumee City Council members Margo Puffenburger and Gabe Barrow are council co-chairs on the Maumee Environmental Commission, which develops environmental policies and sets goals for the city and community to improve its environment.
Maumee city administrator Patrick Burtch had also been thinking of ways to improve the city’s tree canopy prior to the formation of the commission and approached the members with some of his ideas.
It became apparent to the commission that a lot of work had to be done to restore the tree population in Maumee, which has been depleted for many reasons over the years.
“We believe we’ve lost about 9 to 10 percent of our tree canopy, meaning tree cover, in the last 40 years in our community,” Burtch said. “We’re trying to increase by 10 percent in 10 years. That’s a lot of money and a lot of planting.”
Hundreds of trees have already been planted since last year to help reach that goal. According to Burtch, the trees will help stop the noise reaching houses from busier roads in the community, along with increasing property values and improving the health of the community.
Just planting near busy roads and public spaces won’t be enough to reach the goal of approximately 2,000 trees planted every year for the next five years, though. In order to do that, additional private properties and other spaces throughout the community will need to add trees, too.
That’s why Maumee resident and Environmental Commission member Jodi Haney reached out to the schools to see if they would be interested in participating with the project.
“We just asked (school officials) if the city and schools could team up and do this project and we all agreed it was a good idea,” Puffenburger said.
Together, with the help of school staff, like director of teaching and learning Michelle Shafer and teachers Mike Dick and Christine Smith, along with Puffenburger, Burtch, Haney and Barrow, the group has started implementing a plan.
To begin, Puffenburger and Burtch visited Gateway Middle School students on March 29 to stake spots for trees to be planted on the property. On April 3, Puffenburger and Barrow visited Wayne Trail Elementary to stake trees with the students in the environmental club.
“If you get the kids involved, you can make things happen,” Dick said.
The next goal is to get trees in the hands of every MCS student to be planted at their homes or on other properties throughout the city.
Puffenburger knows not everyone will be able to plant a tree where they live, but she’s encouraging residents who have the space and property to plant trees to consider allowing residents to plant on their land if possible.
The commission is still researching resources to obtain the thousands of trees needed to reach the city’s goal, but Burtch has already secured enough for the stakes that Gateway and Wayne Trail students have placed.
Gateway student Paige Kelley was happy to be a part of the group that began placing stakes. She said she understands the importance of increasing the tree canopy as it can lead to environmental, health and economic benefits.
As an added bonus, it will help to serve as an educational experience for generations to come when students grow older and have the chance to return to their old stomping grounds and show off the trees they planted.
“It will make me feel really great to come back here and look back on all the fun times I had here and show my family,” Kelley said of the legacy these trees could have for current MCS students.
With an activity like this, it allows students to be more hands-on in their communities and see the impact they can have in the city. Plus, Kelley added, it gets the kids out of the classroom, which is always fun.
In the future, those working on the project hope the students will be responsible for their tree while it begins to mature. It can present an educational opportunity as students water the trees, track their progress and participate in age-appropriate lessons.
According to Puffenburger, those working on the tree canopy project are working hard to increase the variety of trees planted, too. It will help the biodiversity of the area and prevent a disaster to the tree canopy if there are any illnesses spread among the trees.
As Burtch noted, climate change has also affected what trees thrive in the area and the types of trees the commission can select.
“Trees that you would have planted 100 years ago, you no longer would necessarily plant here because they don’t do as well in the environment that we have,” Burtch explained to the students.
Details are still being worked on by city officials and will continue to be updated over the next several months. Future updates on the tree canopy project will be included in The Mirror.