Who We Are
In December 1989, Elizabeth Gordon Sachs mobilized key Detroit residents, business people and industry professionals to support an effort to reforest the city of Detroit. Once known as “The City of Trees” because of its lush tree tunnels along residential streets, the city’s tree canopy has suffered greatly:
- Between 1950 and 1980, around 500,000 trees were lost in Detroit to Dutch elm disease, urban expansion and attrition. During that same time period, economic constraints prohibited the city of Detroit from replacing those trees. With no routine maintenance to support it, our urban forest began a decline that has not yet been halted. In 1989, Detroit, a typical American city, was losing an average of four trees for every one planted.
- The emerald ash borer beetle infestation in 2004 has caused additional tree canopy devastation. Metro Detroit has lost tens of millions of ash trees in the past decade, making our work even more important than ever before.
In contrast to the city’s shortage of trees, there is an abundance of vacant land — about 20 miles of it. That means there will be room for more trees, green open spaces, prairies, urban farms and pocket parks. It also means job opportunities for city kids and adult workforce trainees.
Today, The Greening of Detroit is a well-established, nonprofit resource agency that partners with federal, state and local agencies, corporations and foundations to assist neighborhood groups, churches and schools in their efforts to improve the ecosystem in Detroit through tree planting projects, environmental education, urban agriculture, open space reclamation, vacant land management, and workforce development programs.
Transforming this city from a post-industrial urban center into a healthier, safer and greener environment will take commitment and a bold new way of thinking. We are ready for that challenge.