Forest starts with a sea of saplings
Volunteers planted thousands of young trees along Little Sugar Creek to improve air and water quality.
Nearly 2,300 plastic tubes have popped up like pins on a pin cushion along Little Sugar Creek in Charlotte’s Belmont neighborhood.
The sight of so many plant supports is a sign something important is taking shape in this stretch of floodplain between Parkwood and Belmont avenues just east of uptown.
And what could be more important than protecting the water we drink and the air we breathe?
Several local agencies worked together through a program called Creek ReLeaf to bring the 15 varieties of trees to Belmont.
The tulip poplars, viburnums, witch hazels, elderberry and other trees planted by more than 400 volunteers in November are expected to reduce the pollution that ends up in the creek. The trees also help improve air quality.
To really make an impact, it takes lots of trees planted fairly close together. For now, the plastic tubes act as little greenhouses, protecting the small trees from harsh weather and hungry wildlife.
“Our goal is to establish a natural forested area,” said David Kroening, project manager for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services. “It’s not intended to be a lawn setting.”
Plantings such as this are possible because of a partnership between Storm Water Services, the Charlotte Public Tree Fund, the Center for Sustainability at Central Piedmont Community College, the Sierra Club Central Piedmont Group and hundreds of volunteers and financial supporters.
The goal is to replace some of the tree canopy that has disappeared because of years of urban development.
Between 1985 and 2008, Mecklenburg County lost 33 percent of its tree canopy and saw paved and developed areas grow by 60 percent, according to a study by American Forests Inc.
Through Creek ReLeaf, supporters are working to plant a minimum of 3 acres of floodplain per year using native trees.
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