By David Fleet
Brandon Twp.- Chances are a Kentucky Coffee Tree, a Dwarf Korean Lilac and Royal Red Maple are not common in area landscaping. However, these unique trees are just a few of more than 200 now putting down roots in the growing township tree library.
At 5 p.m., June 22, tours of the Tree Library will be provided at the Brandon Township Park, 1414 N. Hadley Road at the corner of Hadley and Oakwood roads. The event is part of the annual Township Movie night.
“You don’t have these trees in your backyard,” said Fred Waybrant, township park and recreation director who also coordinates the nine acre tree library. “We now have 75 different trees all compatible with Zone 5.
The trees may not be native to Michigan but they’ll survive here.”
Waybrant, a former landscaping company owner, took aim at a tree library in 1999 when he was first hired by the township. Then, in late 2005 the township board of trustees approved recommendations for phase one of a 47-acre recreation park at the corner of Hadley and Oakwood roads. The township park opened in 2006 and the first trees were planted on nine acres with an additional three acres of wetlands.
“The Ortonville Rotary Club helped us out that first year with 12 trees planted,” said Waybrant. “Since that time we’ve really grown. We have perennial flowers, grasses and a 1/3 of mile sidewalk for walkers.”
Donations were a big part of the library, added Waybrant. A significant number of trees were supplied by Oregon-based J. Frank Schmidt & Sons.
“They send us bare root trees to test in our Michigan growing environment,” he said. “Wojo’s Greenhouse continues to help out this library.”
Grants too have played a big role in the tree library growth. In 2008 the township received a $2,000 DTE Energy Foundation Tree planting grant to replace Michigan trees loss due to the Emerald Ash Borer. The DNR also awarded a $10,000 Tree Planting grant to the township.
“The tree library is here to educate—and make people aware of Arbor Day,” added Waybrant. “I also want the high school students to use the library for school projects and science.”
A recent application for a Recreation Passport Grant to fund a gazebo for concerts and outdoor entertainment at the tree library is in the works.
“The DNR representative fell in love with place when they toured the library for the grant,” he said. “That prompted a future three story observation platform for the three acres of wetlands. When completed visitors can look down on the area and identify hundreds of plants without disturbing the ecosystem.”