A park without trees is just a field. Some parks include fields – as they should for active recreation and large gatherings – but the beauty and utility of many of Cedar Rapids’ parks comes from their trees. To visit these places now can be heartbreaking; the ragged tops of those trees that survived only remind us of the many that were lost. This memory of former glory spurs us to replant them as quickly and robustly as possible.
But this replanting is also an opportunity to make parks better. Best practices in park forestry have advanced since Cedar Rapids’ parks were originally designed. Applying these practices to the City’s parks results in plans that move beyond the simple replacement of trees.
Find information about the following in Chapter 10 (Flip Book) of the ReLeaf Cedar Rapids plan.
- How to plant parks better than they were before the derecho
- Specific replanting designs for 38 separate park properties
- Description of Cedar Rapids’ main types of park properties and planting strategies for each
- A system prioritizing the replanting of all City parks over the next ten years based on an objective analysis of their importance
Cedar Rapids’ larger parks can be improved with trees in as many as five separate ways: firmer edges, tree-lined paths, shade where people are, seedling groves, and edible landscape.
Whether against a public street or private property, a row of substantial trees at the edge of a park defines the park’s limits while turning it into an outdoor living room, giving it comfort to visitors.
Like the famous mall in New York’s Central park, the park path lined by trees is one of the most beautiful and comforting environments that humans can inhabit. People are much more likely to walk on paths lined with trees, thanks both to their cooling shade and the visual interest that framed views provide.
Shade Where the People Are
The presence of formidable trees overhead can lower the temperature of a space by 20 degrees or more. Places in parks where people gather to picnic, host parties, watch competitive sports, or just sit on benches should be sheltered by trees.
A great way to build Cedar Rapids’ canopy cheaply and quickly is by planting groves of seedlings. Seedlings should be scattered in available areas of neighborhood parks and fenced collectively for protection.
Fruit and nut trees have their place and there is ample reason to give people the opportunity to grow food in city parks, especially in locations that qualify as “food deserts” due to the lack of healthy food choices nearby. Of the 38 Park Plans completed as part of the ReLeaf Cedar Rapids plan, nine reserve areas for community gardens as the demand arises. Adjacent to these gardens are ideal locations for fruit and nut trees which can be planted and tended by community gardeners.
Park Planting Priority
As with street trees, one of the responsibilities of the plan is to determine which of the City’s parks is replanted first. The Priority Ranking of Parks was developed using criteria based on the following:
Due to their accessibility to nearby residential areas, smaller school and neighborhood parks have a greater impact on people’s daily quality of life and should be prioritized above community parks, which should in turn be prioritized above regional parks.
Tree Equity Score
Similar to how it is used in the Street Prioritization, tree equity prioritizes parks based on canopy coverage, climate and socio-economic variables.
Percent Population Below 18 years within ½ Mile
The goal is to prioritize the replanting of parks that are most likely to be used by children. Actual use data is not available, so this factor measures the percentage of population under 18 within a ten-mile-walk radius.
Though not a factor in the prioritization, the geographical distribution of parks is an important tool for staging replanting efforts. The Parks and Recreation Department organizes park maintenance crews by quadrants, which requires the work of crews to be sorted by quadrant, so each crew can maintain a steady pace. Distributing the effort in this way makes the most efficient use of watering equipment which is also organized by quadrant.