Power in Numbers
About the Project
The Branch Out Milwaukee - Sherman Park Urban Forestry Grant was a pilot program initiated by Milwaukee Water Commons in 2022 as a way to demonstrate how the frameworks and goals of the Branch Out Milwaukee Master Plan could be implemented on a neighborhood level. Funded by an Urban Forestry Grant from the Wisconsin DNR, the program set out to build community stewardship and leadership of the urban forest with several tactics:
Start the first ever neighborhood-level Tree Board as a way of building neighborhood leadership around the urban forest;
Inventory private property trees throughout the Sherman Park neighborhood as a way to engage community members;
Implement a subsidized tree maintenance program to assist residents with the cost of tree maintenance on their private property.
The program publicly kicked off in April of 2022 with an arbor day planting event at the corner of 45th and Center, but there was plenty of work involved before a shovel ever hit the ground. Outreach was conducted by a volunteer crew consisting of the Sherman Park ECO Ambassadors and Sherman Park Community Association to inform the surrounding residents of the upcoming tree planting event. Trees were donated and delivered by the City of Milwaukee Forestry Division, and tools were graciously loaned by Groundwork Milwaukee and the Urban Ecology Center-Washington Park. The program began with a series of speeches by partners about their experience with trees and the necessity of planting more in the Sherman Park neighborhood. Before planting began, Mark Denning, Cultural Speaker & Educator and member of the Oneida Nation, led the group in a tree blessing ceremony that acknowledged the history of the land we stood on and the future of the space we were growing. This vital component of the program brought all in attendance to the same space, and inspired the group with a common purpose. With the help of neighborhood volunteers and students from nearby Milwaukee Math and Science Academy, 11 trees were planted on the vacant lot of 45th and Center.
A few weeks later, a second planting event took place at the peace garden of Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church on 38th and Keefe to plant two trees near their community gardens. With the help of Pastor Martin Childs and Ms. Linda Griffin, we were able to engage the church community in the planting event. Pastor Childs conducted a wonderful libation ceremony to ground us before planting, and with the help of all involved we were able to plant two beautiful Japanese Tree Lilacs in the space that will support pollinators and relaxation for years to come.
Through the summer and fall of 2022, we designed, implemented, and adapted our tree inventory program as an outreach tool in the Sherman Park neighborhood. Participants received a site consult from Erik Desotelle at Milwaukee Water Commons to discuss the trees on their lot, their potential maintenance needs, as well as what additional trees could fit on the lot given the preferences of the resident. Participation in this program allowed Milwaukee Water Commons to develop a pool of residents that could be eligible for tree maintenance as well as identify which locations could be candidates for tree planting. It also provided residents with a site map and report detailing everything that was discussed during their inventory appointment.
Using the inventory data that was collected and entered on the Wisconsin Community Tree Map, Milwaukee Water Commons then reached out to residents whose trees could benefit from tree maintenance to set up a Tree Risk Assessment with Hoppe Tree Service. August Hoppe, co-owner and president, personally conducted tree risk assessments with residents to determine maintenance needs and costs. With their help, Milwaukee Water Commons was able to provide a subisidy to every resident that participated in the program, maintaining over 30 trees to ensure their continued performance in the urban forest for years to come.
This project was a learning experience for all involved. One challenge was managing resident expectations for the Arbor Day planting event. Our initial approach did not do enough to consult with the neighbors closest to the planting space, which led to tensions after our initial outreach for the event. Thankfully, with the help of commuity leaders and the guiding frameworks of the Branch Out Milwaukee program, we were able to defuse tensions around the planting project. This experience has been vital to strengthening our future programming, which now requires us to achieve neighborhood buy-in before a shovel touches the ground for any planting project.
Branch Out Milwaukee Partners
Branch Out Milwaukee programs are made stronger through diverse partnerships. Here are the organizations that helped make this project possible:
For providing funding for food and helping to bring the neighborhood together around this project.
The grillmaster who made sure everyone that helped plant was fed!