Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Parks Foundation Boosts Reforestation Effort

Molson Coors, Fund for Lake Michigan funding reforestation staff with donation.

By - Mar 3rd, 2023 12:12 pm
Cut down trees. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Cut down trees in Humboldt Park. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee County Parks‘ battle against the Emerald Ash Borer is getting a boost from the Fund for Lake Michigan and Molson Coors.

The two organizations have donated a combined $325,000 through the Milwaukee Parks Foundation for new parks staff positions focused on reforestation projects and others that will begin “reducing deferred maintenance throughout the system,” according to a February report from the parks department.

In accepting the funding the department agreed to several benchmark goals:

  • Restore 20 acres of land.
  • Inventory and develop plans for “a significant portion of 400 acres of declining wetlands.”
  • Plant approximately 6,500 trees with a focus on areas that have seen disinvestment.
  • Develop and begin implementing a plan for planting an additional 6 million trees through the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District‘s Reforestation and Wetland Restoration Project.
  • Leverage resources to “implement capital improvement projects, as well as smaller high impact projects county wide – $1M invested in critical projects, 20+ projects.”

The reforestation coordinator will focus on projects restoring tree canopy lost to the Emerald Ash Borer, which arrived in the U.S. approximately two decades ago. To date, the department’s Forestry Division has focused on removing trees affected by the ash borer. Since 2012, more than 25,000 trees have been removed from the parks system.

The division is responsible for approximately 1.5 million trees spread out over more than 15,000 acres of parkland.

“The Reforestation Coordinator will implement tree replanting efforts to systematically restore tree canopy throughout Milwaukee County parkland,” according to the department.

A reforestation project is more than just sticking seeds in the ground. When restoring canopy loss, staff have to consider the existing root system of an area, appropriate tree species and when the appropriate time to plant new trees will be. Unfortunately, trees can’t simply be replaced at the same pace they are removed. “Putting trees slowly into a system over time is the best way to preserve the diversity of a canopy,” explained Peter Bratt, parks’ director of skilled trades, in 2022.

Additionally, a second position focused on “small, medium and large improvement projects” around the parks system will be created. The parks system has a backlog of deferred maintenance that verges on half a billion dollars. And the special projects coordinator is intended to help will help with overseeing projects that begin to address this backlog.

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