Canopy Connectors plant trees and build neighborhood connections

Submitted by Unity Church-Unitarian in St. Paul.

In March 2021, Rennie Gaither, an Americorps Community Forestry Corps volunteer with Frogtown Green, gave a presentation to members of Unity Church-Unitarian about the need to plant trees in neighborhoods with lower tree canopy. These are typically located in communities of color and with lower socioeconomic status. 

Over the past 10 years, Frogtown Green has planted over 500 trees in the Frogtown neighborhood of St. Paul, where tree canopy is the lowest in the city. These trees begin their journey as bare root trees, which are less expensive than balled and burlapped trees. The bare roots are nurtured over the summer in an irrigated gravel bed where they grow healthy root systems. Frogtown volunteers, the Tree Frogs, reach out to residents of the area to adopt the free trees during the summer, and then plant the trees at their permanent homes in the fall.

Rennie’s presentation was compelling.  A group at Unity quickly formed to bring the Frogtown model to the church’s Summit-University-Rondo neighborhood—another area with low tree canopy.  Their youngest member, 12-year-old Louisa, proposed a name, The Canopy Connectors.

The group obtained permission from the church and built a gravel bed on church property using reclaimed wood. In May 2021, 25 fruit and shade trees were planted in the bed. The Canopy Connectors began reaching out to residents at neighborhood festivals and by leaving flyers on doors. The church’s Director of Communications created a webpage, where visitors could read about the need for more trees in the area, learn about the Canopy Connectors’ efforts, and order their trees.  In early October, the trees were transplanted to their new homes. 

The Canopy Connectors were buoyed by the success of their first year, which was made possible by their ongoing relationship with Frogtown Green and the helpful people they met along the way.  This year they are expanding the program to the full capacity of the gravel bed, 75 trees.  

— Lisa M Burke, Canopy Connectors Lead Organizer

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