ROOTS gets $70,000 grant to replace doomed ash trees

Thirty bare roots trees were planted Nov. 6 between two of the nine City of Sheboygan municipal parks involved in Phase I of the tree planting project to counter the effects of the Emerald Ash Borer insect. An additional 70 trees are now also planted in seven other city parks. — Submitted photo

SHEBOYGAN — The Sheboygan Rotary Club through its Restoration Of Our Trees Sheboygan (ROOTS) initiative in cooperation with the City and County of Sheboygan and the Alliant Energy Foundation’s Million Trees Program, kicked off a collaborative reforestation project in nine of the City’s most widely used recreational parks.

The collaborative funding by the Alliant Energy Foundation’s multi-state Million Trees Program and the County Stewardship Program directly supports the Sheboygan Rotary Club ROOTS initiative started in 2018 to combat the devastation of public forests throughout the County caused by the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB).

ROOTS and the City of Sheboygan along with these major stakeholders-initiated Phase I of a two phase project at the City’s Optimist Park on Saturday, November 6th.  Stakeholders and volunteers at Optimist Park planted the first of over 100 sizable trees to mitigate EAB losses in nine public parks.

Over 50 trees were planted in a similar event Oct. 30 at the Firehouse Park in the Town of Sheboygan in collaboration with the Town of Sheboygan Lion’s Club.

Phase I of the collaborative project involves both municipal and matching private sector funding support driven by the Sheboygan Rotary Club/ROOTS initiative with the direct financial support from the Alliant Energy Foundation’s Million Trees Program. The Phase I reforestation of nine parks throughout Sheboygan was officially announced by City Mayor Ryan Sorenson, Rotary Club ROOTS Coordinator Tony Fessler and Alliant Energy Foundation Public Relations Representative, Adam Erdmann.  During the kickoff, Erdmann announced the Alliant Energy Foundation’s Million Tree Program grant of $70,000 to ROOTS in support of its collaborative public-private sector reforestation efforts in Sheboygan and other municipal areas in the County served by the utility.

Mayor Sorenson and ROOTS Coordinator Fessler acknowledged that the Foundation’s generous grant would directly support the City advancing its proud heritage of being the oldest and longest continuous recipient in Wisconsin of the coveted national Tree City USA recognition.  Sorenson specifically noted Sheboygan has continuously held this status for over 43 years – longer than any other City in the state.

Fessler noted that in coordination with municipal Parks and Forestry staff, the project reforestation would include a wide range of parks with varying recreational facilities serving all parts and neighborhoods throughout the City. Parks included in the project are Optimist, Sheridan, Wildwood Hardball, Franklin, Cole, Camelot Dog Run, Charles Voight, End, and Moose.  He noted that the 2021 reforestation follows a comparable ROOTS collaborative effort completed in 2020 which included replanting six other City parks. 

The current City – Sheboygan Rotary Club/ROOTS – Sheboygan County and Alliant Energy Foundation collaboration involving private-public sector marshalling of resources follows four other projects completed elsewhere in the County in 2020 and 2021 in response to EAB infestation.

Recent tree inventories indicate that the at-risk ash canopy in Sheboygan County exceeds 17 million trees with over a quarter of the City’s public forest lands composed of one of four species of ash.  City Forester, Tim Bull, and other area certified arborists have confirmed that virtually all untreated ash on both private and public lands in the County are now infected by the deadly EAB and will eventually be lost.

In just three years since the ROOTS inception, the Sheboygan Rotary Club/ROOTS and its partner the Lakeshore Natural Resource Partnership (LNRP), have also marshaled over $1,500,000 and Federal and State resources in efforts to respond to EAB in Sheboygan County and eastern Wisconsin. Sheboygan Rotary Club/ROOTS partner LNRP has secured urban reforestation grants benefiting Sheboygan County from the U.S. Forest Service and Environmental Protection Agency valued at well over a million dollars to replant much of the Sheboygan Marsh, Esslingen Park, Gerber Lake, and a range of other public land holdings throughout Sheboygan County.

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