People for Trees: Celebrating Arbor Day with Holden Forests & Gardens

a group of people stand outside planting trees
This April, Holden’s Community Forestry team spent a morning planting 26 trees with Heights Tree People and volunteers at Southerly Park along Doan Brook. We were happy to support their efforts by providing 50 trees and offering planting assistance.

A guest blog by Jill Koski, Holden Forests & Gardens President & Chief Executive Officer

Happy Arbor Day!

For more than 90 years, Holden Forests & Gardens (HF&G) has focused on trees and plants as a living museum at both the Holden Arboretum in Kirtland and the Cleveland Botanical Garden in Cleveland’s University Circle. The expert staff comprises scientists, arborists, horticulturists, community foresters, and educators who are dedicated to building and sharing knowledge to ensure the health of our forests in all our communities.  

This spring, Holden Forests & Gardens launched People for Trees, a movement that brings together the full complement of HF&G work in tree care and launches a movement to have more than 15,000 trees planted across our region by 2025. Nearly 800 people across Northeast Ohio have already pledged to plant and care for more than 2,000 trees. Arbor Day 2021 is cause for celebration of this new initiative aimed at regreening the Forest City and Northeast Ohio.

According to the Cleveland Tree Plan 2020 Tree Canopy Progress Report produced by the Cleveland Tree Coalition (CTC), of which HF&G is an active leader and member, forested land and tree canopy are declining in both rural and urban areas:

  • In rural areas from 2013-2018, the area of forest land decreased by 300,000 acres and live trees decreased by three million.
  • In Cleveland, tree canopy declined by five percent from 2011 to 2017.

It is imperative that we act now to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change and other factors on the health of our urban and rural forests. People for Trees is the HF&G contribution to this critical need.

A logo for people for trees features a black and white leaf

People for Trees artwork was created by artist Julia Kuo. Kuo is a Taiwanese-American illustrator currently based out of Cleveland. She has worked with the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Google. She is a nature and tree lover and is passionate about the People for Trees movement.

“Our arborists, scientists, community foresters, horticulturists and educators work onsite at the Holden Arboretum and Cleveland Botanical Garden, and in our community, to grow and care for trees each year; but we can only plant so many,” said Koski. “We realized, that to truly make a difference, we would need to join with and empower community members to plant and care for their own trees. Only together, can we really make a marked improvement on the region’s tree canopy.”

Contributing to the tree canopy loss solution can feel daunting for many. People for Trees is designed to make it easier for each one of us to do our part.

Dr. David Burke, vice president of science and conservation, and his team of scientists are making discoveries to help with long-term tree health – their work has been cited in The Journal of ForestryScience Magazine and The Washington Post to name a few.

People for Trees will provide a platform for the science and conservation teams to share more of their learning and cutting-edge discoveries with the local community.

“When it comes to making a meaningful contribution to countering the effects of climate change, it is best to start right where we are in our backyards, in our communities,” said Dr. David Burke. “Planting and caring for a tree that uses the energy of sunlight and the process of photosynthesis to take carbon dioxide from the air and also helps soil to capture it, is one of the most powerful things each of us can do.”

In addition to individuals pledging to plant trees, we have neighborhood partners working with us to advance key tree projects in Cleveland. The HF&G team has helped create neighborhood tree plans in Slavic Village, MidTown, and Detroit Shoreway Community Development Corporations, as well as supporting an update to the citywide tree masterplan, the Cleveland Tree Plan.

This next generation of trees will help reforest an area that has been battered by recent storms and help fulfill Height Tree People’s mission of planting and caring for trees in Cleveland Heights, Shaker Heights, University Heights, and the upland areas of Cleveland and East Cleveland.

In addition to beautifying the landscape, trees also provide an abundance of social, economic, and environmental benefits for our communities, including combating climate change, stabilizing soil, cleaning the water, cooling pavement, providing food, reducing asthma rates and so much more. The pandemic has significantly heightened the understanding of the importance of these benefits and the need to ensure that tree benefits are accessible to all if we want all of our communities to thrive.

Arbor Day is a great way to kick off the tree-planting season.  Make your pledge to plant a tree at and donate to have a tree planted. After you pledge, you will receive information about:

  • Best trees to plant in Northeast Ohio
  • Places to purchase your tree
  • How to plant and care for your tree

There is no better day than today to join the movement to reforest our city and region!