I’m glad my county is planning on doing a basic decent common-sense thing of planting trees and other vegetation around stormwater ponds. That said …
They need to pay people, not rely on volunteers!!!
They pay contractors to cut grass needlessly, prune trees excessively, and spray poison; they need to pay people for this important work of planting trees.
According to the announcement, they are looking to volunteers not only to plant the trees, but also to water them til they are established! I guess the volunteers are supposed to haul their own water to the site???
Talking points (feel free to add your own):
1 – The local governments can perfectly well afford to pay people to plant trees — they can just take it out of that unnecessary mowing, spraying, palm-tree-mutilating, leaf-blowing budget.
2 – Another very important reason for paying people is that the conventional landscaping companies need to start seeing the value in taking care of trees. Getting paid to plant and care for trees is maybe the only thing that will get some of these guys to respect and appreciate trees and other vegetation.
3 – Furthermore, the grass guys need to be brought on board with the tree program because otherwise the trees will never be safe. Turfgrass and trees are not compatible right next to each other; they require different conditions to survive and thrive. All too often, turfgrass growing right up next to trees leads to the death of trees from chemicals, string trimmers, ride-on mowers, companies who just consider trees and other plants an annoyance that’s in the way of their mowers and their paychecks (and should probably have chosen a business model that doesn’t involve living creatures of any kind), etc.
4 – We absolutely need, yesterday, a strong local base of landscapers who have skills of natural stormwater management; nutrient filtration; eco-landscaping. We need to stop seeing it as optional and stop shamelessly exploiting the tender hearts and weary hands of people who care so much about plants and nature that they will do hard hard labor for free, spend gas money etc., for what they see as a worthy and essential cause. Developing a base of stormwater-savvy landscaping is a matter of sheer self preservation. Will we collectively be smart enough to wake up and see this, as so many other cities around the world have? Only time will tell. I hope no more destruction and suffering has to happen before we wake up.
Side note on 4: A lot of the volunteers whose labor and wallets tend to be taken for granted as a cost-cutting opportunity for local government are older women, often retired, who are members of the local native plant societies. Not valuing the labor and cultivated wisdom of women / older people: Coinky-dink? I think not.
The only way to ensure the safety and viability of the trees in the long run is to get the mow-and-blow guys on board with the program. Show them that horticulture and eco-holistic-minded landscape maintenance can actually pay. It has to be a coordinated effort. Otherwise the investment will be totally wasted, and will cost money, mark my words, even if volunteer labor is exploited to plant and establish the trees.
I will call the number next week and update you if I get any more information.
P.S. Probably no one at the county will listen to me if I try to tell them this. But, for what it’s worth I’m saying it here: They can get a whole bunch of trees and other plants growing around ponds for free, and those trees and plants will be a lot more robust and zero-maintenance or close to it, if instead of having people expend labor to plant the trees they just back off on mowing and allow the buzzcut turfgrass at pond-edges to succeed to wildflowers, then soft woody perennials, then shrubs, then trees. This natural succession process happens faster than people think.
Note on succession: Succession is one of the core organizing principles of nature that we permaculture design professionals learn in our training. Succession is a natural process that occurs on the social/economic as well as the physical landscape, by the way, although in this post I am of course talking about the physical plants.
Another note on succession: Humans acting mindfully in alignment with nature can gently speed up the process of succession. But that’s a topic for another post and another day. For now, just let the pond edges grow. And/or pay people to plant and establish the plantings.
NOTE! All of the above notwithstanding, I do support people who are volunteering from the heart, and I don’t want to shut down community volunteerism. We just need to be careful not to undermine the bigger picture of sustainability, which includes economics and people’s livelihoods.
Suggested action: we could contact the county saying thanks for doing this and please give this department a budget for this project. Same for any other project like this and any other local government body.
UPDATE Wed 5/17/2023:
I just now got off the phone with the county point person for this project. Very nice conversation. She is very committed to this project and she is an environmental sciences student and knows her stuff and is taking input from county arborists and so on.
She doesn’t know the answer offhand to my question of why they are using volunteers rather than paying people, but she’s going to look into it. (BTW the trees themselves are paid for by a county fund that comes from fines that are levied against developers and others who remove trees unlawfully.)
She’s also going to look into ways of making it easier for the people watering the trees. For example, possibly collecting rainwater and having it stored nearby for the people doing the watering.
I told her that if the answer turns out to be funding that I may be able to help her connect with some federal funding sources I’ve heard about.
Also she was able to answer my point of concern regarding that the tree planting needs to be coordinated with the grass guys being on board. They are absolutely getting the grass mowing service people on board.
And she also gave me the good news that there are people coming forward to volunteer and that a lot of the volunteers are residents who live in the neighborhoods near the publicly accessible stormwater pond sites where the county is wanting to plant trees This is the best possible scenario, that people living closest by are most invested.
I’m going to email her and we will be keeping in touch. I let her know that I am part of various eco grassroots groups of citizens, and she looks forward to staying connected with us.