Mayors-Tree-of-The-Year-2017-second-placeBy Rich Christianson

If you love hearing about urban trees repurposed as furniture and other wood products, then you gotta love the Mayor’s Tree of the Year program in Grand Rapids, MI. While the focus is clearly on saluting trees that are thriving, great back stories are being created in the process that will add tremendous value to the lumber these trees will – hopefully – yield when they must come down.

The annual award program was initiated in 2012 by the Friends of the Grand Rapids Parks. The Arbor Day Foundation recognized Friends of Grand Rapids Parks for its launch of the Urban Forest Project, which includes a crowd-sourced map on which the public can plot the locations of trees.

The 2017 Mayor’s Tree of the Year dedicated in September is a  “European Beech tree chosen for it’s size, beauty and context within the history of Oakhill cemetery . This magnificent tree has a diameter of 48 inches and a canopy spread of nearly 90 feet.” Adding to the plot line is this quote from the resident who nominated the tree for the award. “It has an amazing sinuous trunk. One side looks like it has toes! It has a sweeping canopy like an umbrella (it works like a real one, too!) and it has its very own bench.” (See local TV station’s report in video below.)

There would be a great tale to tell about any furniture or wood products made from this award-winning tree that stands guardian to a cemetery. Talk about full circle!

The runner-up trees are no slouches.

Second place went to a white mulberry in John Ball Park. Said the nominator, “I love how much character this tree has. Viewed from a distance, it looks a bit like an overgrown shrub, but once you approach it, you see that it’s a tree that’s leaning out to encircle a small, private area with a couple of picnic tables. It makes the city feel miles away.”

An historic 200-plus-year-old red oak, the largest and oldest tree on Calvin College’s main campus, took third place honors. “We collect seeds to grow plants and trees for our rain gardens,” said the nominator. “Every year I collect a couple acorns from this tree to germinate. We grow up these acorns in our nursery and plant the saplings in rain garden across the Grand Rapids community. Not only is this tree beloved by those at Calvin, It’s babies are growing throughout the city to be enjoyed by many others.”

I hope Grand Rapids citizens will enjoy these trees for many years to come, but when the time comes that they must be removed, may their stories be cherished as future heirlooms for generations to come.

Read more about the 2017 Mayor’s Tree of the Year program.