Reforesting the Forest City: Cleveland Sports Franchises, Local Businesses Pledge Commitment to Trees

October 26, 2021

It’s unclear who coined the Cleveland nickname, Forest City. Maybe it was a former mayor in the mid-19th century, or maybe a printer and newspaper owner from that same era. The Forest City Racetrack opened in 1850, the first business to use the moniker, and a year later the Forest City Bank, Forest City Bath House, Forest City Cricket Club and others followed.

But what is clear today is that Cleveland is rapidly losing the healthy and robust tree population that once inspired the Forest City name. A healthy urban tree canopy – the layer of tree leaves, branches, and stems that provide tree coverage of the ground when viewed from above – should be above 30 percent. Cleveland’s tree canopy coverage is at 18 percent and declining.

Western Reserve Land Conservancy – Ohio’s largest land trust – partners with nonprofits, local businesses, public and private companies, local, state and federal agencies, neighbors and communities to Reforest Our City, a campaign dedicated to reforesting the Forest City with healthy, native trees.

Today, corporate sponsors joined the leadership of Cleveland’s professional sports franchises and Western Reserve Land Conservancy to announce their commitment to planting trees and rebuilding Cleveland’s denuded tree canopy.

“The Land Conservancy is proud to partner with the Cleveland Browns, the Cleveland Indians, the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Kaulig Companies, the Davey Tree Expert Company, the Mawaka Foundation and so many other great, local businesses to plant trees in and around our city,” said Rich Cochran, president and CEO of Western Reserve Land Conservancy. “We are Reforesting Our City, and that work cannot be done alone. It is a campaign that will require collaboration and partnership to reach our goals, and we are excited to see the commitment from so many business leaders to play a part.”

The breakfast event held at Downtown Cleveland’s Public Square included a panel discussion with Dee Haslam, Managing and Principal Partner, Cleveland Browns; Matt Kaulig, Executive Chairman and Owner, Kaulig Companies; Tim Clepper, President and CEO, Kaulig Companies; Paul Dolan, CEO, Cleveland Indians; and Len Komoroski, CEO, Cleveland Cavaliers.

The event kicked off ROC in CLE a fundraising partnership with the Mawaka Family Foundation, presented by Kaulig Companies, to support the Land Conservancy’s Reforest Our City campaign that includes a private concert on Saturday night featuring a musical performance by multi-platinum and Grammy-winning artists, Train.

“Kaulig Giving is proud to partner with Western Reserve Land Conservancy in their ongoing conservation efforts with natural land areas and our urban communities,” said Matt Kaulig. “This unique partnership directly aligns with our goal of impacting Northeast Ohio children, families, and the communities we live in. At a Reforest Our City tree planting, I was a part of that transformation in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood. It’s amazing to see all of the community engagement, teamwork, and beautification in just a matter of hours!”

The idea for ROC in CLE came from discussions between the Land Conservancy and Hudson residents Scott and Julie Mawaka, who operate the Mawaka Foundation, a charitable nonprofit established by the couple in 2004.

We are Reforesting Our City, and that work cannot be done alone. It is a campaign that will require collaboration and partnership to reach our goals, and we are excited to see the commitment from so many business leaders to play a part.

“When we learned about what the Land Conservancy was doing in and around the Cleveland area, we knew partnering with them would be a great fit,” said Scott Mawaka. “Over the years we’ve partnered with many local charities to raise awareness and provide support. This year we are so excited to host tree plantings, organize this great panel discussion, and host a world-class concert event. We’re going to generate funding for the Land Conservancy to continue their great work providing the people of our region with essential natural assets through land conservation and restoration.”

The Kaulig Companies joined in support of ROC in CLE as the presenting sponsor. Tim Clepper, president and CEO of the Kaulig Companies, is pleased the company could participate in such an important event for Cleveland’s trees.

“We are very excited to support Western Reserve Land Conservancy to plant trees, create new green spaces, improve our communities, and make Cleveland a special place to live. Our environment is so crucial to the future of our kids. By protecting that environment, we can ensure bigger and better things for Cleveland. And by supporting efforts to reforest the Forest City, we can help set the stage for other cities to follow suit. It’s all about preserving natural areas and rebuilding our city, not just for ten years from now, but hundreds of years into the future!”