Helping Communities in Need New community forestry initiative takes shape in north St. Louis County

Tuesday, August 22, 2017
As a non-profit organization serving the 24 communities within the Normandy School District in St. Louis, Beyond Housing focuses on improving quality of life by taking a comprehensive approach to community development. They strive to make a real impact for their residents by supporting the entire fabric of what makes communities thrive: housing, education, health, job readiness, and economic development.

Beyond Housing has received assistance from Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) in the past, through our Tree Resource Improvement and Maintenance grants (TRIM), which provide cost-share funding for government agencies, public schools, and nonprofit groups to manage, improve, or conserve trees on public lands. The organization has used TRIM grants for tree maintenance and other community forestry projects.

Community representatives from Vinita Terrace, Velda Village Hills, Uplands Park, Cool Valley, Wellston, Pasadena Hills, Pagedale, Bel-nor, and Pine Lawn tour the Forest ReLeaf Nursery as part of their introduction to community forestry and public tree management.

This year, MDC partnered with Beyond Housing to develop a cooperative agreement that provides them with a full-time community forester. The goal of the partnership is to make sure that public tree care within the Beyond Housing’s area is fully incorporated into their comprehensive approach to community development. As we know, taking care of trees isn’t just about aesthetics. Trees in our communities provide environmental, social and economic benefits that improve the quality of life for everyone.

With a forester on staff at Beyond Housing, they have a qualified expert to help make sure all 24 communities are making the best decisions about their public trees. The forester, Doug Seely, is tasked with developing potential TRIM grants, conducting tree inventories and management plans, preparing the communities for the impact of emerald ash borer, and developing an outreach program to help educate the communities on the importance of trees in their neighborhoods. He also coordinates with all 24 mayors and city councils on a frequent basis to move each community toward becoming part of the Tree City USA program. For many of the 24 municipalities, this marks the first time anyone has attempted to manage the trees in their communities.

Vinita Park Public Works staff and community members dig holes for new trees in their community.

Last fall, MDC Community Forester Danny Moncheski sat down with Beyond Housing’s forester, Doug Seely, to assist with administering the first batch of tree service contracts. The contracts are funded with a 50/50 match of MDC cooperative agreement funds and municipal funds from the communities within the Beyond Housing.

One of the first projects underway was hazard tree removal in the city of Pagedale, followed by projects in Hanley Hills, Velda Village Hills, and Pasadena Hills. Once the hazard trees are removed in the various communities, tree planting projects will follow. Danny and Doug are also working with Velda Village Hills to use structural soil as part of their sidewalk replacement program, with the goal of ending the long-time practice of using stump grinders to cut tree roots prior to replacing a sidewalk slab.

Street tree trimming in Hanley Hills will make the neighborhood trees healthier.

By receiving financial assistance to support the work, these small communities are working together to implement a wide-spread, self-sustaining tree management program. This great partnership between MDC and Beyond Housing will help further community forestry efforts in the St. Louis area and supports the overall benefits of trees in communities.

Beyond Housing Forester Doug Seely presenting a check to the mayor of Pagedale for hazard tree removal.