Heights Tree People prepare for spring

Have trees, will plant, just ask! From left: Tadas Barkus, a friend, and Heights Tree People Margy Weinberg, Bill Hanavan, Kathy Smachlo, Laura Marks, Sue Wolpert and Elsa Johnson.

Thirty-some years ago, Bill Hanavan planted a tree in his yard on Yorkshire Road, and fell in love. He couldn’t stop looking at trees, buying trees, and planting trees. In Kalamazoo, Mich., where Bill and Pat Hanavan raised their two daughters, their yard became a veritable forest. Retirement and grandchildren brought the Hanavans back to Cleveland Heights, where Bill still looks at, buys, and plants trees—free of charge—for anyone who wants one.

A notice in Nextdoor, the social networking service for neighborhoods, elicited some interest, and Hanavan planted more than 20 trees for friends and neighbors. But in this time of climate consciousness and controversy, Hanavan was looking to meet up with other tree enthusiasts. 

A fundraising event for the Western Reserve Land Conservancy helped connect Hanavan with Margy Weinberg, Sue Wolpert and Laura Marks, founding members of Heights Tree People, a group of local residents who plant and care for trees in their neighborhoods. 

Each member of this small, but energetic, group brings to it a special skill: Weinberg is the organizational expert; Marks knows everyone in town, and who to call for what is needed; Kathy Smachlo specializes in native plants; Elsa Johnson is active in the East Cleveland Parks Association and is a leader in the restoration of Forest Hill Park. Wolpert’s training in nonviolent communication guided the group in defining its purpose, and Hanavan brings muscle, enthusiasm, and a shovel.

Since its founding in the winter of 2019, Heights Tree People has established their mission, which, in addition to planting trees, includes sharing knowledge and advocating for an enduring tree culture; and increasing the health, vitality, and happiness of our local habitat, and the planet.

These may be large goals for a small, all-volunteer group, but with determination and dedication, Heights Tree People have already gifted more than 100 trees to residents in Cleveland, Shaker Heights, East Cleveland and Cleveland Heights. 

The group is especially proud of “changing the landscape of the entire street”—East 130th—where residents organized themselves with help from Heights Tree People and planted 11 trees on a single block.

The benefits of trees are numerous. Trees enhance the visual appeal and health of a street or neighborhood by moderating climate, improving air quality, reducing stormwater runoff, and harboring wildlife. 

Heights Tree People hopes to plant 200 trees during the next growing season, especially in front yards, and on entire streets, with the help of residents.

In the doldrums of winter, think spring! Don’t wait for Heights Tree People to knock on your door. Request a free tree now by sending an e-mail to heightstreepeople@gmail.com.

Jewel Moulthrop

Jewel Moulthrop, a Heights resident, edits and occasionally writes for the Heights Observer.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 10:01 AM, 02.28.2020