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Turning a new leaf in Detroit one tree at a time

Lionel Bradford and son

One day, the Petty household came home to a tree resting on its side in front of their home.

“I thought at first it was the city. Then, I talked to my son, and realized it was probably the Greening of Detroit,” said Cindy Petty.

Her son had worked with Greening before. In fact, the crew of more than 100 people ready to plant 150 plus trees seemed to be a very a welcome sight in the Warrendale neighborhood last Saturday. I witnessed people wandering out of their houses excitedly saying things like, “we needed trees!”

If you don’t know Warrendale, it’s about as far west as you can go in the city proper without hitting Dearborn. It’s a community of reasonable single family homes and neat yards, and a lot of dedicated people who just get stuff done.

“I cut all of the lawns of the houses that don’t do it, like that vacant one right there,” said Jim Petty, pointing to a place a few structures down. It didn’t look painfully abandoned. I’m guessing Jim is to blame for that.

Why plant Trees?

The 150 trees planted over multiple blocks not only help reinforce a block that looks like any stable community you’d imagine. They will help with runoff, water management and provide needed shade.

According to Barry Johnson, a volunteer forester for the Greening since 1989, one of the biggest challenges is educating people on the value of trees.

“People think it just means more work … that they bring pests or make it so they have to clean their gutters. But there are so many benefits to trees,” he says.

Trees reduce the use of energy and raise property values. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest service says that healthy, mature trees add an average of 10 percent to a property’s value. So although these are young trees today, in the future this could be a gift that keeps giving to the community not just environmentally but financially.

Community takes root around the task

People from all areas came together to put their shoulder into it.

“It’s the people in the city who want to make it come back that are making the city come back, and it’s inspiring,” said Lionel Bradford, who was working with his young son planting a tree.

Turning that inspiration into action is a challenge and the Greening makes that happen by assembling a very organized experience where time isn’t wasted and things are accomplished. Proper tools are provided, and because of the excellent experience for volunteers, it’s helped encourage the business community to back them up.

On this day that kicked off the planting season, Nissan donated a brand new Titan pickup truck, and many corporations work with the Greening to provide volunteer opportunities. There is a cadre of paid Greening employees, as well, that help provide that extra boost of professional experience required to make sure things get done right.

Feeling like you want to get your hands dirty turning around Detroit? Check out these upcoming Greening plantings, and get in touch with them at

Sep 29 – Howarth Park Clean-up

Sep 29 – Northwest Warrendale #2 Tree Planting

Sep 29 – North Stansbury Block Club Tree Planting

Oct 13 – Outer Drive Tree Planting

Oct 20 – Cody Rouge South Tree Planting



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