HCP-MV Partner Spotlight: Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Urban Forestry

Planting Seeds, Growing a Culture of Conservation in the Mahoning Valley

Celebrating Minority Health Month & National Poetry Month with an excerpt from Langston Hughes’ “April Rain Song”

As the sayings go, “April’s showers bring May’s flowers,” and “when it rains, it pours.” April has been a busy, fruitful month for HCP and many of our partners, but our spotlight is looking up to the trees.

Throughout April, HCP recognized National Minority Health Month and celebrated significant contributions that Black Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) have made to help and heal our communities. 

As our world re-greens, April has been designated National Lawn and Garden Month, which seeks to “make the world a greener, healthier and more livable place.” 

April is also National Poetry Month, a time to celebrate creative communication and the voices that breathe new life into the ordinary, invisible parts of our routines and refocuses our attention on new perspectives for readers and listeners alike. 

Weaving these threads together about connections between people, health, gardening, and healing, Marge Piercy writes in “The Seven of Pentacles”:

If you tend them properly, if you mulch, if you water,[…]then the plants flourish, but at their own internal clock.

Under a sky the color of pea soupshe is looking at her work growing away thereactively, thickly like grapevines or pole beans

as things grow in the real world, slowly enough.

If you tend them properly, if you mulch, if you water,

if you provide birds that eat insects a home and winter food,

if the sun shines and you pick off caterpillars,

if the praying mantis comes and the ladybugs and the bees,

Connections are made slowly, sometimes they grow underground. More than half the tree is spread out in the soil under your feet.

then the plants flourish, but at their own internal clock.

Connections are made slowly, sometimes they grow underground.

More than half the tree is spread out in the soil under your feet.

Penetrate quietly as the earthworm that blows no trumpet.

Fight persistently as the creeper that brings down the tree.

Spread like the squash plant that overruns the garden.

Gnaw in the dark and use the sun to make sugar.

Weave real connections, create real nodes, build real houses.

Live a life you can endure: Make love that is loving.

Keep tangling and interweaving and taking more in,

a thicket and bramble wilderness to the outside but to us

For every gardener knows that after the digging, after the planting, after the long season of tending and growth, the harvest comes.

interconnected with rabbit runs and burrows and lairs.

Live as if you liked yourself, and it may happen:

reach out, keep reaching out, keep bringing in.

This is how we are going to live for a long time: not always,

for every gardener knows that after the digging, after

the planting,

after the long season of tending and growth, the harvest comes.

Arbor Day Foundation Family Tree Planting

Putting a period, more like an exclamation point, at the end of the month, the last Friday, April 30, is National Arbor Day. The Arbor Day Foundation is at the center of National Arbor Day history and celebrations. The mission of the Foundation is to “inspire people to plant, nurture and celebrate trees.” The Arbor Day Foundation focuses on conservation and education, cultivating support from a million members, donors, and partners, which support programs to make the world greener and healthier. Many of those million members are rooted in Ohio, working to promote conservation and education about the multitude of benefits of the natural world, especially trees. Leading these efforts is the Ohio Department of Resources Division of Urban Forestry, which “promotes and applies management for the sustainable use and protection of Ohio’s private and public forest lands.” ODNR’s Division of Urban Forestry has a team of Urban Foresters, who are responsible for working with community partners across the state to fulfill their mission.

Lola Lewis, Urban Forester, ODNR Division of Urban Forestry

The HCP and the Mahoning Valley are incredibly lucky to have the focus of our April Partner Spotlight, Lola M. Lewis, as one of our region’s two ODNR Urban Foresters. Ms. Lewis’ footprint includes Mahoning County along with 12 other counties throughout the Northeastern Ohio region where she assists communities to develop tree programs such as pruning, planting, and caring for trees on public land. In February, ODNR featured Ms. Lewis in a spotlight of their own, where she shared that her favorite part of being an Urban Forester: 

I truly love working as an urban forester because it provides me with an avenue to merge my love of trees (their many benefits to the people and the environment), and my passion for working with people. Sharing years of experience, I educate communities to manage one of their most valuable resources, their trees. I am blessed every day to work to connect people and trees in some very unique and beneficial ways. 

During her time with HCP, Ms. Lewis led several tree identification workshops and the ODNR Tree Commission Academy that have reached nearly thirty participants, who range from professional arborists to budding new volunteers. Ms. Lewis along with Parks and Greenspaces peers hope to be able to continue the Tree Commission Academy and offer more educational programming to the community in the coming months.

Lola Lewis,guiding a team of volunteers survey trees in Wick Park, summer 2019.

Along with partners from the Parks and Greenspaces Team, Ms. Lewis co-facilitated a tree study of Wick Park in Youngstown, which surveyed over 700 trees and submitted recommendations for maintenance needs to the city to keep the park safe, accessible, and beautiful for all users—from plants to pollinators to people. More recently, Ms. Lewis has generously offered her expertise to a group of her Parks and Greenspaces peers who have revived conversations about reactivating a Tree Commission and Urban Forest Plan in the City of Youngstown. 

Ms. Lewis’ passion for trees branches out touching all areas of her professional and personal life and inspiring others to follow her lead. She is an International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Certified Arborist and serves on the Ohio Chapter ISA Board. Other leadership roles include Mahoning County Co-chair for HCP’s Parks and Greenspaces Action Team and president of Plant Ahead Ohio, a grassroots organization whose mission is to “engage citizens, government, business, and universities to establish zero atmospheric carbon balance for the Mahoning Valley.”

Before we hear Ms. Lewis’ reflection about how she, as an Urban Forester, is helping to nurture and to grow healthier communities, here is her favorite quote and a bit of inspiration: 

I try to be like a forest: revitalizing and constantly growing—Forest Whitaker

Thank you, Ms. Lewis, for bringing the forest, revitalization, and growth to HCP and the Mahoning Valley.

Lola Lewis, Urban Forester, Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Urban Forestry

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