words by Noor Hindi, photos by Christine Batten

The trees at the Innerbelt National Forest, designed as a temporary installation, have been planted for good.

The two-month installation lasted from August to September 2018 and paid more than $72,000 to local artists. More than 400 people visited the space during that time, organizers said in a Nov. 27 announcement.

Located on city-owned land alongside the now-decommissioned section of Route 59, the forest’s construction and programming was funded by a $224,000 grant from the Knight Cities Challenge. Akronites enjoyed free concerts and programming, cooled off in hammocks and on benches and participated in programs like goat yoga.

Now, the Innerbelt National Forest has received permission from the City of Akron to continue using the land. Organizers are securing funding from the Knight Foundation to continue programming beginning in April 2019.

Programming director Hannah Troyer says she’s excited to continue working with the community and planning more events in the space. During the first round of programming, the music events the Innerbelt Forest held with artists like Umojah Nation and Angie Haze were especially successful.

“The first part of the project was really fast-paced. We were really just aiming to do as many events as possible and get connected to different networks. In this round of programming, I’d really like to be more curated, a little more intentional, and just really find out what people who frequent that space would like to see there.”

READ MORE: The Innerbelt National Forest and how cities plan for the future

Hannah says she and organizers are currently working on the infrastructure of the space. Originally, everything in the Innerbelt National Forest was built and planted to be removed after two months, including the trees. Now, the trees have been planted, and community members can expect to see the space function on a seasonal basis.

“We’re using the term ‘semi-permanent.’ We’re going to go season by season and see how it goes. My hope, personally, is that it can be a permanent kind of green gateway into downtown.”

Hannah is also working on rebranding the space. The Facebook page for the space has already changed its identity to simply “Innerbelt Forest.” 

Organizers will begin renovating the space and planning programs in March. They’re looking for volunteers to help plant more trees and participate in programs.

Contact Hannah at hannahstroyer@gmail.com. You can message the Innerbelt Forest at Facebook.com/InnerbeltForest or via innerbeltnationalforest.com.

Noor Hindi is a Senior Reporter for The Devil Strip. Contact her at Noor@TheDevilStrip.com.

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