Evart wraps up tree planting program

258 new trees planted throughout the city

EVART — The city of Evart wrapped up its tree planting program recently with the replacement of several trees that had died or were struggling.

The final count of trees added to the Muskegon River Watershed is 258, all native and well adapted to Michigan’s volatile weather and all low maintenance, Evart city clerk Kathy Fiebig told the Herald Review.

Fiebig said the city signed a tree grant agreement with the Muskegon River Watershed Assembly in 2020. The grant, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, provided 235 native trees to be planted throughout the city to improve the Muskegon River Watershed.

“The city has lost eleven trees, which is a great success rate,” Fiebig said.. “Some of these were buck rubbed, several were vandalized, and the rest just died. It happens. The final planting replaced all of the dead trees as well as some that are struggling but were left in the ground. If they don’t survive, another tree will already be in place.”

Roughly 100 of the trees were planted in Riverside West, which was decimated by the emerald ash borer in years past, Fiebig said.  Some were placed for cosmetic enhancement, while others are intended to help mitigate the issues with the ground water in the park.  

“Due to its proximity to the Muskegon River, the water table is very high throughout the park, which is great for trees but problematic for camping,” she said.  

Over 40 trees were planted at the Evart Housing Commission, and 20 were planted at the City of Evart wellfield along W. 5th Street.  The remainder of the trees were scattered throughout the city, she said.

“The windstorm of September 2021 hit right before a scheduled planting day, and that planting was quickly redesigned to replace many of the trees that we lost along Main Street,” Fiebig said. “Over 40 trees were planted on Main Street alone.”

Tree selection was designed to diversify the Evart canopy, she said, with several varieties of oak and maple planted, as well as river birch, tulip tree, hackberry, hop beam, aspen, American beech, eastern redbud, dogwood, juneberry, and witch hazel.  

“Although it will take 40-50 years for these trees to reach maturity, they will greatly improve the ‘windshield appeal’ of the city, as well as resisting the type of decimation that can happen if one species is targeted by disease or insects,” Fiebig said. “Most of the trees are on public property, although some were planted on private property with the homeowner taking responsibility for watering them through the first two seasons.” 

Due to restrictions on public gathering brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the first round of trees did not go into the ground until September 2020. Thirty-one trees were planted by a small group of MRWA staff, city staff and community volunteers, Fiebig said.

“Lessons were learned, and the city realized that it was going to take an army to get the rest of the trees planted, since most were in 25-gallong pots, with a 2 inch or better caliper, so were heavy and awkward to handle,” she said.

She reached out to Kevin Kuethe of Lume Cannabis Company, and they immediately agreed to help, she said. With the large labor force available, they were able to move forward and successfully fulfill the requirements of the grant.

“Multiple tree plantings were held in 2021 and 2022, with Lume sending out an average of 60 volunteers for each planting,” Fiebig said. “The city could not have done this without them, and Lume crews planted 200 of these trees. It is safe to say that Lume provided at least 400 volunteer hours, and they also provided lunch every time they came out. The crews were engaged and enthusiastic, followed planting directions meticulously and overall did a fantastic job."

The city provided support to the project by sending out staff and equipment to unload and transport trees, renting an auger to dig the planting holes and delivering bulk loads of mulch to the planting sights, she said. Lume volunteers then planted, watered, staked and mulched all the trees.

The city of Evart would like to thank the USDA, the MRWA and Lume for all the help and support throughout the program.

Special thanks to Pat Jarrett, who administered the grant for MRWA, and Mike Gabrion, MRWA Board member.  Both were present at all 2021 and 2022 plantings and were critical to the success of this endeavor.  

A huge shout out goes to Kevin Kuethe and Catherine Dougherty of Lume, for organizing multiple groups of volunteers and getting the food to sites to sustain the crews.

“To paraphrase and old saying, ‘It takes a village to plant a tree,’” Fiebig said. “Thank you.”