Skip to content

The Heart Forest


It all began at a Peace Conference in 1987 when the Chief of the Iroquois Nation (also known as the Chief of Chiefs) Leon Shenandoah shared both a reflection and challenge: “I am an elderly man and when I travel, I grow weary. But when I’m here in the heart of America, my heart grows strong and my spirit soars like an eagle.” Moved by these words, a diverse group of citizens led by one of the world’s leading sustainable architects sought a way to honor this legacy and to remind ourselves and our children of this unique heart spirit. The vision looked at the Big Apple and the St. Louis arch and landed on one big idea: to plant a forest in the shape of a heart. The planting was completed in the early 1990’s before the days of social media and mainstream internet even existed. For some period, it was forgotten. But today, these 3 ft trees from a generation ago have grown into a mature but relatively unknown 50 ft Heart Forest adjacent to KCI Airport.


Heart Forest


Whatever America hopes to come to pass in the world, must first come to pass in the heart of America. – Dwight D. Eisenhower


Our mission is to activate the heart spirit in people.  By harnessing the power of story around this living monument, we will make tangible heart centered change in the areas of ecological health, social equity, and economic development around the city (and country).


With 11.8 million passengers in 2019, KCI airport’s visibility and general buzz around this will educate many people about the carbon cycle, the benefits of planting trees, and climate mitigation strategies all while becoming a literal local/national symbol for the heart of America. To raise funds, we intend to build a programmable lighting system which must be turned on by annual corporate sponsorship and donation crowdfunding to “dedicate a light.” This will remind us to continue to activate and cultivate our heart spirit by creating a perpetual impact fund that will enable projects of ecological health, social equity, and economic development every year into the future. This project is designed to unite people in a way that is easy to love rather than easy to hate. We bypass typical traps of climate complexity by leading with a narrative that is trendy, likeable, and simple to understand.


  • Dollars $ Raised
  • KC Tree Cover % increase (currently 20%)
  • KC Tree Canopy % in poor health decrease (currently 60%)
  • # Tons of Carbon Sequestered
  • # of people in network
  • # Media Impressions
  • # Site locations


  • Carbon offsets with airport operations and vendors (until airport is carbon positive)
  • Branding fit for “sticky” merchandising campaign
  • Community centric infrastructure (picnic tables, gates, gazebo, gardens)
  • Solar lighting system so that arriving airplane passengers can see HeartForest 
  • Experimental social media mechanism (new lights turned on with donations)
  • Quote plaque of Chief Leon Shanandoah 
  • Exhibits in airport terminal and onsite for carbon education
  • Neighborhood satellite location templates advancing ecological health, social equity, and economic development.

Resources 101: