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Detroit,MI: Greening For Detroit

  • Subject: [cg] Detroit,MI: Greening For Detroit
  • From: adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Thu, 30 Mar 2006 10:53:41 -0500

Green thumb group reforests Detroit
Lisa M. Collins / The Detroit News
March 30, 2006

DETROIT -- Since moving to the city in 2001, Ashley Atkinson has planted more than 3,300 trees, 16,600 perennial flowers, 20,500 shrubs, 50,000 vegetable plants and 16,000 packets of seeds. You could say she is an enthusiastic gardener.
She's also the project coordinator for Greening of Detroit, an organization quietly taking responsibility for re-foresting and landscaping in a city devastated by the emerald ash borer tree disease and a lack of funds for re-planting programs.
The city of Detroit has planted less than 500 trees in recent years and removed more than 5,000 because of the tree disease. Meanwhile, Greening of Detroit has planted 44,669 trees since its inception in 1989 with the help of thousands of volunteers who go to city parks and other locales to plant on the weekends.
Atkinson is young and exuberant and not only has spearheaded Detroit planting programs but has bolstered community gardening and agricultural efforts in Detroit. Under Atkinson's leadership, and with a team of other advocates, the city now has more than 81 community gardens. The gardens are operated by schools, neighborhood groups and churches, supported with training and supplies by the Detroit Agricultural Network, a consortium of gardening and agricultural groups in the city.
Her goal? For Detroit gardeners to grow enough food to sustain families and neighbors with enough produce left over to sell.
"That's a real need, especially in low income neighborhoods where there's not much access to fresh nutritious food," Atkinson said.
She's also working to lobby the city to support using open lots and empty land for urban farms and gardens.
"When you think of vacant land in the city, people see disinvestment. But it's an asset and an opportunity. There's so much than can be done with open space to really create a modern fantastic city. We've done a lot but we could do a lot more."
Atkinson got her start at an early age. She grew up in north Flint, where abandonment, flight and blight hit much like it did in Detroit. Her parents were avid gardeners, and Atkinson's backyard was filled with flowers and vegetables, she says.
Now she's working with other activists to spur gardening, farming and reforestation in Detroit.
"Especially with trees, there's an epidemic in Detroit," Atkinson says. " We'd be a barren city without the Greening of Detroit."
You can reach Lisa M. Collins at (313) 222-2072 or lcollins@detnews.com.

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