City of Akron and Partners Receive $1 Million in Community Forestry Funding from Federal Inflation Reduction Act Award
Akron, Ohio, Oct. 13, 2023 — The City of Akron and its nonprofit partners, Truly Reaching You, Akron Urban League, the Akron Zoo, and CommEN Strategies, are receiving $1 Million in funding from the United States Department of Agriculture U.S. Forest Service. The funding will be used for Project ACORN: Akron Community-Owned Reforestation Network. Project ACORN will develop an Urban Forestry workforce training pipeline in five disadvantaged neighborhoods experiencing the highest tree canopy loss in Akron: East Akron, Middlebury, Sherbondy Hill, South Akron, and Summit Lake.
Akron residents re-entering society from prison and placed by Truly Reaching You or young adults participating in the Youth Entrepreneurship Program program at the Akron Zoo will be eligible to join the Academy. Participants in the program will train at a new Urban Forestry Academy site on city-owned land at Theiss Road to hone skills in tree planting, trimming, pruning, tree identification, invasive species control, common tree diseases and ailments, tree health monitoring, and long-term tree maintenance. Upon conclusion of the 8-week program, participants may receive industry certifications and technical skills to pursue a career in forestry.
Previously considered as a site for either new housing development or conservation, the Theiss Road location of the Urban Forestry Academy will occupy approximately 64 acres of city-owned lands. With the funds from the Urban and Community Forestry grant, the Theiss Road properties will remain City assets not subject to sale for the duration of the 5-year grant period.
Trees cultivated at the Academy will improve the tree canopy in the neighborhoods where Academy participants reside and as determined by community engagement initiatives. Currently at 34.5% coverage, Akron is working to plant and maintain trees to achieve a 40% tree cover of the City by 2040.
“Pursuing Akron’s urban tree canopy goals through the Akron Urban Forestry Academy can help us address the racial wealth gap and watershed protection,” said Mayor Horrigan. “President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act funding allows us to align our community health, development and planning programs in more effective ways.”
In 2021, the City of Akron released its Urban Tree Canopy Assessment and Planting Plan, which found that Akron needed to “develop a multifaceted approach to expanding tree cover that includes emphasis on tree planting, maintenance, tree preservation, and community outreach and education to develop wide public support” for urban forestry efforts. Project ACORN seeks to deliver workforce development, racial equity, climate and stormwater management benefits to City residents.
Akron is part of a cohort of urban communities receiving more than $1 Billion made available through the Inflation Reduction Act to support equitable access to trees and the benefits they provide. One of 385 projects funded by the USDA Forest Service, Akron’s proposal addresses tree planting and maintenance, restoration and resilience, workforce development, planning & community engagement, and extreme heat.
To view the full US Forest Service announcement, visit: https://www.fs.usda.gov/managing-land/urban-forests/ucf/2023-grant-funding.
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