One of the largest urban reforestation projects in the nation required engagement across a spectrum of neighbors, community organizations, corporate leaders and policy makers to transform nearly 140 acres of blighted land on Detroit’s east side to a neighborhood featuring an urban tree farm where residents would want to live, work and play.

We used a Strategic Communication Management Plan approach to overcome an initially hostile reception based on misinformation, misunderstanding and fear of the unknown. A full range of communication tools – ranging from town halls and individual door knocking, to media and public relations, to social media and proof-of-concept pilot programs, and all forms of publicity – were used to create understanding and support across audiences.

In 2014 the project was celebrated with more than 1,400 people planting 15,000 trees in the first annual planting. The City of Detroit lauded the project, and the project became a story with sustained global interest, including a documentary entered in the Sundance Film Festival.

In 2015, more than 2,200 people showed up to plan an additional 5,000 hardwood trees and to celebrate the rebirth of the Detroit east-side neighborhood.

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