Project Blue River Rescue: Improving Kansas City’s Waterways

Every year for the past 20 years, hundreds of volunteers and city workers in metropolitan Kansas City come together in an effort known as Project Blue River Rescue. Their goal: to clean up piles of trash and illegal dumping out of the Blue River which flows through their city.

Blue River Rescue 2013

Kansas City-area boy scouts take to the Blue River to haul out debris as part of the Project Blue River Rescue 2013. Photo: PBRR Facebook.

Partnering with the Kansas City Public Works, the Missouri Department of Conservation and several local businesses and organizations, Project Blue River Rescue has grown to be Missouri’s largest, one-day conservation cleanup.

“Each year, volunteers have cleaned up thousands of pounds of trash, tires, appliances and even cars,” says Wendy Sangster, Urban Forester with the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Blue River Rescue 2013

Volunteers remove several bags of trash and nuisance honeysuckle from the banks of the Blue River in metro Kansas City, as part of the Project Blue River Rescue 2013. Photo: PBRR Facebook.

More recently, Project Blue River Rescue has also focused on habitat restoration along the river. In April 2013, a group of 20 volunteers organized by the Heartland Tree Alliance, a branch of Bridging the Gap, planted 500 tree seedlings along the Blue River near a baseball complex in southern Kansas City. The seedlings included native species — burr oak, sycamore, pecan and shellbark hickory — all which would have normally grown along the Blue River. Volunteers also worked to remove invasive honeysuckle plants along the waterway to ensure the growth of these new seedlings.

Sangster firmly believes in the longevity of this project and the positive impact it has on the local community. By getting community members involved in the planting, she feels it instills a connection to nature and provides a foundation for advancing environmental stewardship in the greater Kansas City area.

“If a volunteer can do the physical, hard work of planting a tree,” Sangster says, “they are more likely to become ambassadors and tree stewards in their own communities.”
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Mary Sweeney is a program manager at the Arbor Day Foundation.

 

Summer storms keep disaster recovery top of mind

Strong storms, tornadoes, and wildfires have rocked communities all across the U.S. this spring and summer, leaving paths of destruction in their wake.

In the past few weeks alone, thousands of acres have burned in Southern California and New Mexico. Oklahoma and Texas each have seen rampant devastation by multiple tornadoes – some bringing the strongest winds ever recorded. And with the 2013 tropical storm season now officially underway, climatologists are predicting more and stronger storms for the coasts this summer. Read more…

Recycled Christmas trees give back to storm damaged shores

It is February and Valentine’s Day is looming, but the Christmas Spirit of Giving lives on along the shores of Long Beach, N.Y.

Volunteers arranged nearly 3,000 recycled Christmas trees donated by residents and the local Home Depot along the beach with the intended purpose of restoring the protective dunes that were damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

Photo Credit: New York Times

Photo Credit: New York Times

Hurricane Sandy significantly affected the Long Beach locality by washing away about half a million cubic yards of sand, resulting in an elevation loss of three to five feet in some areas along the beach.  Many residents were left dangerously exposed and vulnerable to future storms.

The plan to place the trees in the dunes was proposed by Long Beach residents and approved by city officials. According to the New York Times, “the trees are supposed to catch sand blown by the wind, until gradually the dunes grow up around them.”

Volunteers positioned the trees with their tops facing toward the surf. Officials hope this placement will be the most optimal for catching sand blowing from all directions.

Naturally growing grasses usually prevent and anchor sand from blowing or washing away, but the significant loss of sand has stalled the growth of grass. The recycled Christmas trees will take the place of the lost grasses to encourage the revitalization of natural dunes and plant growth.

States prone to hurricanes, such as the Carolinas and Florida, have been using Christmas trees to restore dunes for years. Additional localities in New York and New Jersey are also recycling Christmas trees to reinforce beaches damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

Damaged dunes take two to three years to become fully re-established.

Long Beach residents hope to establish a tradition of adding more recycled Christmas trees every year to keep building up the dunes that act as their first line of defense against inclement weather, and they’re off to a great start.

We hope Long Beach and communities like it continue to heal and be a shining example of the impact and importance of recycling.

Recycling real Christmas trees gives back to the earth all year-round

A previous blog post  emphasized the environmental, economical and social benefits of purchasing a real Christmas tree over an artificial one.

Photo Credit: Cross Timbers Gazette

As the season comes to a close, we thought we would highlight some environmentally friendly ways to dispose of real Christmas trees and give back to the earth.

It is important to recycle real Christmas trees because they contain valuable nutrients that can be used in other capacities like compost or mulch.

According to Earth911, a website that specializes in providing consumers recycling information, some of the main uses for post-harvest, recycled trees include the following:

  • Chipping (used for various things, from mulch to hiking trails)
  • Beachfront erosion prevention and river delta sedimentation management
  • Lake and river shoreline stabilization including fish habitat

The methods for recycling a real Christmas tree can vary depending on where you live, so it is important to be knowledgeable of your community’s tree recycling processes and rules.

Photo Credit:
Richmond District

The three most common options available for recycling your Christmas tree are curbside pick-up, drop-off programs and do-it yourself projects.

The most convenient (but not always available) option is curbside pick-up. In neighborhoods where this method is offered, it is important that Christmas tree owners follow neighborhood guidelines to ensure that their tree does not get picked up with the regular trash collection and end up in a landfill.

Photo Credit:
Record-Courier

Drop-off programs are only available for a limited time after the holidays but offer a one stop solution for tree recycling needs. Real Christmas trees can be dropped off at specified collection sites as long as they are completely free of all decorations. It is important to note that trees that have been flocked with fake snow are usually not eligible for recycling programs.

Finally, there is always the do-it-yourself option. Live Christmas trees can be chopped into firewood or used for home projects and crafts. For some households, they can be used as natural water habitats when placed in a pond or body of water.

You can visit Earth911’s database to find the Christmas tree recycling solution closest to you.

Approval of urban farm in Detroit sparks controversy yet offers promise

In September I wrote about Detroit, Michigan, and a new campaign to repurpose vacant parcels of land into urban farmland and revitalize the local ecosystem.

According to the New York Times, entrepreneur John Hantz offered to purchase 140 acres of abandoned land in Detroit to clear the empty lots of debris and plant roughly 15,000 hardwood trees. Hantz and his colleagues have said their plans for the land will increase economic activity, raise property values and add to the city’s tax base.

Support for this method of repurposing some of Detroit’s vacant lots is mixed.  Many agree that urban farming would diversify the city and be a more beneficial use of the land space, which currently supports foreclosed homes and crumbling buildings.  But some residents and city officials view the transaction as a land grab that Hantz will use for his own benefit.

Nevertheless, on December 11, the Detroit City Council approved the sale of the land to Hantz in a 5-4 vote.

A website developed to detail Hantz’s proposal states his intentions to transform blight to beauty, convert abandoned properties to fields for new agricultural production, create jobs and strengthen the city’s budget.  Hantz has witnessed the deterioration of Detroit over the years and says he wants his farm to not only be used for agricultural production, but also as an open area the community can experience and appreciate.

Additionally, Hantz plans to plant trees and encourage neighbors to enjoy their beauty and learn about the importance of urban trees, including how they can be used as a sustainable and profitable resource.

Photo taken from City Farm, a successful urban farm located in Chicago

Although it remains to be seen how the land will be developed, community participation will be important for the overall success of this project.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture advocates that active involvement from area residents  in projects like these is key to building an empowered, successful and more satisfied community.

Through its Tree City USA and Tree Line USA programs, the Arbor Day Foundation understands the positive impact urban forestry has on cities worldwide and therefore sees the potential benefits Hantz’s urban farm can have in the community.  There is significant promise in Detroit’s effort to build a new, green economy.

Real Christmas trees offer economical, environmental and social benefits

Christmas trees have had a long history in the United States, beginning in the 1800s when they were introduced by German settlers.

Since then, Christmas trees have become a major commercial industry. But, in recent years, more and more families are facing a dilemma between purchasing a real or artificial Christmas tree.

Photo Credit: ChooseAndCut.com

The National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) approximates that nearly 25-30 million live Christmas trees are sold every year.  However, according to the Wall Street Journal, consumers will spend about $1 billion on artificial trees that primarily come from overseas.

Real Christmas trees, in comparison, are grown at Christmas tree farms in all 50 states, contributing not only to local state economies, but also helping keep family farms from being converted to other uses.

Many people are under the mistaken assumption that fake trees are more environmentally responsible than chopping down live trees, which is simply not the case.  According to NCTA, “Artificial trees contain non-biodegradable plastics and possible metal toxins such as lead.”

Photo Credit: BellyAcresNJ.com

As the Arbor Day Foundation points out in its November-December newsletter, fresh cut Christmas trees are a renewable, recyclable and sustainable resource that sequesters carbon and helps clean the air while protecting soil and wildlife habitat.  For every Christmas tree harvested, NCTA says 1-3 new seedlings for the following spring are planted, estimating that presently there are close to 350 million real Christmas trees being grown at U.S. Christmas tree farms.

Photo Credit: KVBPR.com

Along with the many environmental and economical benefits, real Christmas trees also offer the social benefits of a memorable holiday tradition, introducing young children to nature, and encouraging family togetherness. Many Christmas tree farms even offer wagon rides, refreshments and other attractions to make the experience of selecting the perfect Christmas tree for your family unforgettable.

If you would like to find the Christmas tree farm closest to you, you can visit NCTA’s Tree Locator tool.

For more information about real Christmas trees such as selection, care, and recycling tips please visit NCTA’s website.

Greening of Detroit singles out potential for urban trees to revitalize local ecosystem

The environment is playing a significant role in the resurgence of Detroit and Rebecca Salminen Witt, president of the nonprofit agency, Greening of Detroit, is a big part of the movement.

Greening’s mission statement has evolved over the years from specifically addressing replanting needs, to addressing the various needs of Detroit’s ecosystem.  The Greening of Detroit has filled several needs by creating planting and educational programs and encouraging environmental leadership and advocacy in the area.

In a recent interview with the Detroit Free Press, Witt explains that Greening’s forestry department has progressed to a green infrastructure department.  “Tree planting obviously is always going to be at the heart of what [this department] does,” stated Witt, “but they’re looking much more broadly at the ecosystem services that trees and forestry can provide, and they’re doing a lot of other things as well.”

Photo Credit: Greening of Detroit

The Greening of Detroit has broadened its methods from “classic tree planting,” to planting that will better utilize  the benefits of every tree; such as planting for stormwater retention and planting large, dense blocks of trees to remediate soil contamination.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal highlighted a new campaign for Detroit to repurpose vacant parcels of land into urban farmland.  Rebecca Witt is enthusiastic and prepared for the Greening of Detroit to take on similar opportunities for securing Detroit’s ecosystem, asserting:

That’s a pretty incredible thing to be able to think of a major American city that really could have an ecosystem that could support itself and all of its people in a way that is sustainable for the long term.

Some potential plans for Detroit include planting oak trees and maybe fruit orchards.

The Arbor Day Foundation avidly promotes the intrinsic benefits of urban trees. The work going on in Detroit isolates the potential of urban trees to revitalize a struggling community and establish a sustainable industry.

The Arbor Day Foundation agrees with research that explains the benefits of trees for stormwater retention. Rain refreshes and nourishes green landscape.  But as cities grow and tree cover is lost, so is the absorbing effect of plant life and soil.  Trees and vegetated infrastructure prevent costly stormwater runoff from polluting waterways with oil, heavy metal particles and other harmful substances.

Click here for a visual depiction of a city water system with few trees, and one with abundant trees.

Nonprofits like the Greening of Detroit are making huge impact and filling the inherent need for effective urban forestry tree planting and environmental care in communities nationwide.

J. Sterling Morton 2011 Winner

2011 National Arbor Day Awards

J. Sterling Morton Award Dr. Anne Hallum

Anne Hallum of the Alliance for International Reforestation (A.I.R) in DeLand, Fla., was presented with the J. Sterling Morton Award, the highest honor given by the Arbor Day Foundation. Hallum founded her nonprofit organization to help people in Guatemala by establishing a better, more sustainable quality of life through tree-planting. The Morton Award is named after J. Sterling Morton, who founded Arbor Day in 1872. Under Hallum’s direction and guidance, the Alliance for International Reforestation has been educating residents in Guatemala and Nicaragua since 1993, working with 25 to 30 villages at a time, each for a period of five years. The staff (all native residents) educates indigenous volunteers about proper tree-planting and agroforestry that will provide sustainable farming as well as protection from frequent and dangerous mudslides. Through proper tree-planting, mountainside erosion is controlled and mudslides are avoided during the harshest of storms. The native trees planted by local volunteers and farmers help preserve important forests, which have a tremendous impact on the villages. These trees improve nutrition for people and livestock, provide animal habitat, clean the air, protect local water, supply firewood, shade homes and fertilize crops. A.I.R. has worked with more than 110 villages in rural Guatemala and Nicaragua, adding more than 3.7 million trees to the region’s rain forest.

View Award Video for Dr. Anne Hallum 

2011 Arbor Day Award Winners

The day after National Arbor Day our annual Arbor Day awards banquet takes place.   The National Arbor Day Awards are a chance to highlight people across the world that are making a difference through trees.  For the next few weeks we are going to take an in-depth look at the 2011 Award Winners. 

But first I wanted to share with all of you the opening remarks from the founder and CEO of the Arbor Day Foundation, John Rosenow.   

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”

I think Emerson was speaking of the power of intention.  The good people we honor tonight, these Arbor Day Award winners, clearly made their decisions, and sent their intentions out to the universe — backed up with large doses of hard work and collaboration and love.

The results have included the planting of thousands and thousands and thousands of trees—and the triumph of the human spirit.

Read more…

Happy Arbor Day 2011

Friday is National Arbor Day.  Although many states such as California, Maryland, Missouri, and Oregon have already celebrated Arbor Day, today is the nationally recognized tree planting holiday of Arbor Day. The original Arbor Day was celebrated April 10th, 1872 in Nebraska.  A day where an estimated 1 million trees were planted by individuals and counties in Nebraska.

I am curious what are you doing this Arbor Day to continue this 140 year old tradition?