Tree Planting In Oakland County To Positively Impact Environment

Pontiac, MI - An Earth Day (Friday April 22, 2022) tree planting in Royal Oak Township will help support stormwater management in the George W. Kuhn Drainage District (GWK) which serves 14 Oakland County communities, all of which have encountered significant flooding during heavy rains in recent years.

Oakland County planted five trees donated by the Detroit Zoo in Mack-Rowe Park as part of the OAKSTEM tree planting grant program initiated by Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter, Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash, and the Board of Commissioners in 2021.

"This program provides so many benefits. It increases the tree cover in the county and helps with the drainage of stormwater in communities that have experienced devastating flooding," Coulter said. "This is an easy way for us to improve the quality of life for our residents and help contribute to the fight against climate change."

OAKSTEM is a matching grant program for GWK communities in partnership with the Oakland County Department of Economic Development, Water Resources Commissioner, and Board of Commissioners which contributed $100,000, $50,000, and $50,000, respectively. Its purpose is to increase the tree canopy and decrease the surface area which is impervious to rain in communities that make up the GWK, which has among the highest percentage of impervious surface area in Oakland County.

"It is imperative that we work together to develop green infrastructure solutions to our changing climate," Nash said. "I am proud to join the OAKSTEM initiative to increase the tree canopy in the George W. Kuhn drain communities, like Royal Oak Township, by providing matching funds through my Pure Oakland Water nonprofit organization."

OAKSTEM encourages GWK communities to begin, continue or expand their street tree planting programs. Communities awarded grants contribute a one-to-one match of their own funds. The grant supplemented tree planting projects during the Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 planting seasons.

"These trees represent Oakland County's commitment to retaining and restoring our ecosystem by installing green infrastructure, to support the long-term health of our communities, our people, and our natural environment," Commissioner Gwen Markham (D-Novi), who co-authored the resolution establishing the program, said.

"I'm so proud that the board was able to lend its support and play a part in establishing this program," Commissioner Yolanda S. Charles (D-Southfield), who co-authored the resolution establishing the program, said. "The communities along the George W. Kuhn Drain needed help, and through cross-county collaboration, we were able to deliver a sustainable solution."

The Detroit Zoo donated three tulip trees and two sweetgum trees to Royal Oak Township as part of its own effort to plant 2,000 trees on its campuses and in communities across Metro Detroit. The Detroit Zoo will also plant the remainder of Royal Oak Township's OAKSTEM trees at no cost to the township.

"This commitment makes a big difference for communities by helping to improve air and water quality. The average tree absorbs 48 pounds of carbon dioxide and 1,673 gallons of storm water every year," said Detroit Zoological Society Chief Operating Officer Gerry VanAcker.

Pure Oakland Water, Nash's 501(c)(3), covered the township's $10,000 matching funds for the OAKSTEM grant.

"Royal Oak Township is excited to take part in the OAKSTEM program which will improve the quality of life for our residents," Royal Oak Township Supervisor Donna J. Squalls. "We also are grateful to the Detroit Zoo and Pure Oakland Water for their generosity in supporting our community."

Since OAKSTEM's launch last summer, it has awarded $156,060 in grants to 12 communities. In total, OAKSTEM will support the planting of approximately 1,350 trees.

Other municipalities which are all or partly in GWK are Berkley, Beverly Hills, Birmingham, Clawson, Ferndale, Hazel Park, Huntington Woods, Madison Heights, Oak Park, Pleasant Ridge, the City of Royal Oak, Southfield, and Troy.

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