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The Big Plant Takes Root Countywide

Some big ideas grew during a year of pandemic quarantine, and The Big Plant was one that caught on in a big way in Door County for 2021.

The volunteer-run Climate Change Coalition (CCC) of Door County rebranded its own tree-planting program and is coordinating and tracking countywide Big Plant efforts from Earth Day, April 22, through the end of May. Most years, the CCC, The Nature Conservancy and the Forest Recovery Project collaborate to plant 800-900 trees with help from area school students.

The coalition ordered far more trees this year, and many municipalities, groups, businesses and individuals got on board during the winter. As April began, the CCC had received word that more than 13,000 trees – and counting – would be planted this spring in preserves, parks and private properties countywide.

“Everyone has been 100% on board that we’ve reached out to – so much so that we don’t have enough trees,” said Kate LeRoy, a volunteer and event planner for CCC. The organization ordered native trees from a nursery and will distribute them to groups. 

“We started out with a goal of about 5,000,” LeRoy said, “and we’ve hit that, and as word has gotten out, more organizations have jumped in. You have to plan pretty far in advance to get native saplings. Now some organizations are going to other nurseries to find more trees, or instead of planting smaller trees, investing in a couple of larger trees to plant.”

The trees that CCC ordered are one-foot-tall red pine, white pine, balsam fir and red spruce saplings.

A file photo from a past Arbor Day Earth Week Tree Planting on the Nature Conservancy Kangaroo Lake property in Baileys Harbor. Danny Kelly from Ephraim.

LeRoy said it’s great to see interest in native trees at businesses and in locations with new construction. For instance, condominium association members at Woodcrest Village in Sister Bay and Hidden Blossom near Fish Creek got involved. Other associations contacted CCC too late to reserve trees and instead ordered trees on their own.

Around the County

After receiving its 500 trees through CCC, Door County Land Trust will give away 125 trees and 125 native flowers and plants on four days on a first-come, first-served basis in Sister Bay, Sturgeon Bay, Egg Harbor and the Southern Door Legacy Preserve at Clay Banks, said Cinnamon Rossman, Land Trust development director. The native plants include beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis), swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), false sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides) and monkey flower (Mimulus ringens). See the sidebar of events for details, and learn more at doorcountylandtrust.org.

Farther south on the peninsula, the Brussels Lions Club will plant at the Southern Door School property, and Forestville-Maplewood Lions Club members’ properties will get new trees.

In January, the Village of Egg Harbor put a call out for residents and business owners to sign up to purchase saplings for 69 cents each and pick them up around Earth Day. The village initially planned to sell 400 trees, reached that goal on the first day of ordering, and now has 824 saplings reserved, said Lydia Semo, Egg Harbor’s environment and sustainability coordinator.

The Village of Ephraim, designated a Green Tier Community, ordered 53 trees and will give those to residents as a nod to 1853, the year when the Moravian religious community was founded, LeRoy said.

Volunteers will plant 1,200 saplings for The Nature Conservancy (TNC) at Kangaroo Lake Preserve, and an additional 6,600 trees will be machine-planted. Before opening the work to more volunteers, TNC will contact its existing volunteers to ask them to register for time slots to “make sure we’re providing a safe experience in light of COVID,” said Kari Hagenow, Door peninsula land steward.

In Sturgeon Bay, the staff at the 120-acre Crossroads at Big Creek Preserve invited volunteers, or “Habitat Healers,” to attend a tree-planting lesson and then sent them to specific spots to plant trees. Crossroads ordered more than 400 trees from CCC, but it also has additional, ongoing reforestation projects. Visit crossroadsatbigcreek.org to find out more.

In Baileys Harbor, Tia Bellisle told the town board she will donate $1,000 worth of shade trees, and the Rotary club will match that dollar amount for trees. Bellisle said she’d prefer the town to plant the trees in a space where people can “enjoy moments of quiet.”

Also in Baileys Harbor, Frogtown Road resident Francha Barnard and Waseda Farms’ Jeff Lutsey are planning a tree giveaway to town residents May 8, before Mother’s Day. They’re acquiring 80 trees and gave the town the first pick for its parks and grounds. Ryan Weisgerber, the town’s public works supervisor, said town officials want to maintain some open spaces, but they may plant a few trees at Old School Park on Guy Street and perhaps one at Lakeside Park along Highway 57.

As of early April, LeRoy was awaiting the exact timing for the tree delivery, and then CCC volunteers will need to tag the trees and place them in containers. To learn more, visit climatechangedoorcounty.com or email LeRoy at [email protected]

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