Imagine Grinnell keeps up reforestation plan for Grinnell


Contributed by Tim Ellsworth

After Imagine Grinnell plants the trees at the resident’s home, the homeowner is responsible for taking care of the tree long-term.

Conrad Dahm, Staff Writer

Imagine Grinnell, an organization based in Grinnell, Iowa, has a project to plant 1,000 trees in the city of Grinnell. The plan to plant these trees came after the August 2020 derecho, which knocked down around 35% of Grinnell’s canopy trees, according to Imagine Grinnell’s President, Tim Ellsworth.

“We lost probably 3,500 trees in just 10 or 15 minutes,” said Ellsworth. Following the loss of the trees, Imagine Grinnell wanted to start a project to plant more trees in Grinnell. He said that Imagine Grinnell chose 1,000 trees to start with, and a grant was received to begin the project. Ellsworth said that Imagine Grinnell does other things, such as help the environment and assist to create new job opportunities in town. Some of these things include a giving garden to help with food insecurity and numerous bike rides throughout the year, such as the annual Prairie Burn 100 bike ride.

Imagine Grinnell purchases trees at a wholesale cost, plants them and takes care of the problems that may follow such as tree upkeep and maintenance, said Ellsworth. He also said that the organization acquires the permits associated with growing new trees.

Ellsworth said he did not have much experience with trees, but he said that he received help from arborists, like Grinnell College alum Bel Kugel `20, planning the types of trees planted in order to ensure a diverse ecosystem of trees in Grinnell. With this help, he said that Imagine Grinnell started the process of planting 1,000 trees around the area.

“We have run into things we just didn’t know about. We’ve learned an awful lot, but what we’ve tried to do is get high-quality and diverse species of trees,” said Ellsworth.

Ellsworth said that there have been laws in Grinnell that limit the number of trees on a sidewalk, making the task more difficult. However, he also said that Imagine Grinnell has worked with the local government to change some of these laws and facilitate the process. 

So far, the program has planted 627 trees and 250 saplings in the town of Grinnell. 

During the fall of 2022 and spring of 2023, Imagine Grinnell allowed residents of Grinnell to apply for a tree, which will then be planted by the organization. After applying for the trees, Imagine Grinnell will help plant the tree on the applicant’s property, but the owner of the property needs to ensure that they follow all city guidelines. After planting, the tree must be cared for long-term by the property owner. Ellsworth said that the long-term goal of the program is to have trees that will be alive for 50 or even 100 years. He also said that he hopes to plant the 1,000th tree this fall.

The funding for the project comes from multiple sources such as grants and private donations, Ellsworth said. He also said that many private citizens started to donate money, especially after seeing new trees in the city. So far, according to Ellsworth, Imagine Grinnell has spent almost $100,000 on trees. He also said that 49 trees are left to be financed, and people wanting to donate should visit their webite at People also can sign up to be volunteers for Imagine Grinnell on their website.