Garden Plants 110 Trees in its New Permeable Parking Lot
A mature tree can absorb about 100 gallons of water a day and transpire it into the air. That’s a lot of water for one tree. Imagine the hard work of flood prevention a whole neighborhood’s worth of trees, or even an entire forest can do. The Botanic Garden at Georgia Southern University received a generous grant from the Alliance for Community Trees at the Arbor Day Foundation to help manage storm water and keep nearby Little Lotts Creek clean. The grant, supported by CSX Transportation, allowed the Garden to plant 110 trees in its new permeable parking lot. During November and December, over 25 Georgia Southern University students worked with Garden staff to plant a wide variety of trees and measure their impact.
Parking lots can be bad news for our creeks and rivers. Oil, antifreeze, tire rubber, and other toxic chemicals collect on impermeable surfaces like asphalt and concrete. Rainwater can stream off these surfaces and carry these pollutants into nearby waterways, making them dangerous for all living things, including people. In addition, the surfaces shed water far more quickly than nature intended, and the high speed flow all at once can producing major flooding.
The Garden’s new permeable parking lot serves as a model for addressing storm water runoff into nearby Little Lotts Creek and the essential role of trees as part of urban riparian infrastructure. The 110 project trees will suck up hundreds of gallons of water during a storm, and will prevent the rapid sheet flows of pollutants into nearby Little Lotts Creek. The trees will help address the water issues presented by the lot, and will serve as a demonstration to thousands of annual visitors about the role of trees in maintaining clean rivers and mitigating air and water pollution. The trees, many of them native to the area, add to the diversity of Statesboro’s shrinking urban forest, and the Garden’s increasingly important botanical collection. Species planted include cypress, maples, oaks, elms, evergreen viburnum, ginkgo, and even a plant that is extinct in the wild, Franklinia altamaha.
“The whole time I’ve been a student, this was a bare uninteresting place,” said senior William Page, between shoveling. “Statesboro’s developing so fast, and cutting down so many trees. It’s good to be adding native species back, to increase diversity and to make the place beautiful.”
“The color is going to be really cool in the fall,” added Jeremy Word. “And it’s inspiring. I want to go home and plant a tree. I hope all the kids who come here on field trips get the same idea.”
Students and staff will use iTree, a software program, to calculate the infrastructure value of the trees they plant. Each tree produces oxygen, absorbs CO2, filters pollutants, absorbs storm water and provides other essential functions people need for survival, and they do it all for free. They even add value to a community, since study after study shows that people are willing to pay more at businesses landscaped with trees, and will pay more for homes with mature trees.
The project at the Botanic Garden is changing perceptions about how trees, transportation, and the water cycle can intersect.
“I’m thrilled to be doing this,” said Garden Manager Josh Jones, as he supervised the planting. “I love trees, and the more of them we have, and the more species we can plant, the better. We need them for so many things, and I’m glad we can take good care of them, and the river, by what we’re doing here at the Garden. It helps the whole city, and makes me want to live here.”
The Botanic Garden recruited volunteers through various university programs. The Garden posted planting information and pictures on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Outreach was made to the University Marketing and Communications Department, and it is expected that the project will be celebrated within the university and the community once the university community returns for Spring Semester in January 2018. The Garden will also include an article in its newsletter, which reaches over 300 member households. Credit to the Alliance for Community Trees, the Arbor Day Foundation, and CSX Transportation will be given on permanent interpretive signs in the parking lot.
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