For more than a quarter of a century, The Greening of Detroit has been laying roots in Detroit communities.
Last year the organization helped the city plant trees in the Cody Rouge area to help control flooding and water runoff. This year it is planting in communities. The first shovels started digging on April 9 at 5608 Plumer St. Tree plantings will continue in Detroit neighborhoods every Saturday through May 21. Much of the work is done by volunteers.
The “opening” day in early April was hardly ideal. The Green of Detroit staffers and volunteers faced low temperatures, wind and even snow, when it should have been well into spring. Despite the obstacles, 70 volunteers showed up and divided into groups of three to four, each group planting a tree that added greenery to the neighborhood.
In some neighborhoods residents were apprehensive given the presence of dead and rotting ash trees already there. They didn’t want to be stuck with more dead trees. The Greening of Detroit explained the new trees were not the same and wouldn’t suffer the same fate as the ash, which has been devastated in our city by the emerald ash borers.
Over the last few years The Greening of Detroit has been replacing the ash trees on Detroit streets with different tree species such as green vase zelkova, greenspire linden, gingko and various oaks.
The trees not only make the streets of Detroit look better, but also clean the air, help manage the rain, and inspire a greater sense of community. There is another added benefit. Through planting, neighbors get to know each other and take pride in their day’s work, which creates an overall better living experience.
There is much to do in many neighborhoods. The ongoing effort to purge Detroit of blight has left more vacant lots in need of something to fill the space. That’s caused an uptick in work for The Greening of Detroit and others.
An upcoming project is to take 220,000 worms to lots on the east side. Once released the worms will breakdown hard clay and create better soil.
Osborn High School and two elementary schools will soon take part in The Greening of Detroit’s first Outdoor Education Center. Here they will help plant trees and learn how to make sure birds and bees stop at planting locations.
Ongoing projects include planting, farm tours and classes that teach interested community members about the green thumb lifestyle. They learn basic gardening care, are helped to set up gardens, both flowering and vegetative, and are taught how to properly plant and care for transplants.
Neighborhood support is essential for all these projects. Before starting them, The Green of Detroit canvases the area and attends community meetings, such as those held by block clubs. All this ensures long-term relations with a strong support system.
The results have been pretty spectacular. Since 1989 the organization has planted 85,000 trees in Detroit and since 2003 it has created or supported more than 15,000 gardens.
And there’s more.
It partners with Focus: HOPE and the Neighborhood Services Organization on a workforce development program called Detroit Conservation Corps. It teaches unemployed and under employed people landscaping skills as well as tree artisan, floral decor, urban agriculture, landscape construction and urban forestry.
The program became certified as a federal apprenticeship program through the U.S. Department of Labor last year and currently has an 83 percent job placement rate and 100 percent of trainees are full time.
If all goes according to plan, 5,000 Detroiters will have landscaping jobs over the next few years. Already more than 350 Detroiters have graduated from the adult workforce training cohort since its inception five years ago.
The Greening of Detroit is always looking for volunteers. If you would like to try your green thumb skills and help plant these trees go to The Greening of Detroit website.
Upcoming neighborhood plantings this year will be at:
• 1550 W. Euclid St. on April 23 Planting 9am-1pm.
• 18672 Stoepel on April 30 Planting 9am-1pm.
There is one today (April 16) at 767 Marlborough St.
Detroit residents interested in having trees planted on their streets can complete a Community Planting application, available at www.greeningofdetroit.com or call The Greening of Detroit at (313) 237-8733.