The Greening of Detroit’s mission is to guide and inspire the sustainable growth of a healthy urban community through trees, green spaces, food, education, training and job opportunities. For nearly three decades, The Greening has shown how the environment can play a crucial role in the city’s revitalization, from economic development to job creation to creating sustainable neighborhoods.
Within the last decade, stormwater management has been a mainstay of our urban forestry work. To date, we have supported the planting of 100,000 new trees — which not only provides shade, improves air quality and manages soil pollution, but has also kept thousands of gallons of stormwater out of Detroit’s combined sewer system. In addition to trees, The Greening has installed wildflower prairies and piloted several bioretention projects. This history of community engagement and volunteer partnerships to get plants in the ground and established led to The Greening’s participation in the Land + Water WORKS program.
The Land + Water WORKS program is a coalition of 10 independent non-profits working collaboratively to provide Detroit residents with the resources needed to become better stewards of our own environment, as well as operate as a liaison that engages residents around green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) opportunities and stewardship.
In 2018, The Greening of Detroit supported curriculum and presentation development for the entire program, co-lead the Land + Water Forums, and supported ambassador education through workshop trainings. The forums were hosted by well-known community spaces within each of Detroit’s seven neighborhood districts. Each event consisted of a big-picture presentation that connected stormwater to water quality and green infrastructure, a smaller interactive presentation on key concepts, and home-grown hero speakers. To encourage information sharing and informal conversations, tables and refreshments were set out during a green infrastructure focused resource fair, tabled by coalition and neighborhood specific organizations.
Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions among Detroit residents regarding the role of trees, rain gardens and bioswales in climate extremes, and little understanding of green infrastructure’s impact on flooding events that directly affect their lives. Residents’ lack of familiarity with both the causes and strategies for addressing climate change necessitates the need for education and community engagement in order to prepare and adapt to vulnerabilities to climate extremes.
Through the support of Southwest Airlines and the National Recreation and Park Association’s Green Stormwater Infrastructure Community Outreach and Education Grant, we will build on the success of the Land + Water WORKS program by hiring four community members to serve as Community Ambassadors that will be liaisons to engage fellow residents around GSI opportunities and stewardship. Community Ambassadors will help The Greening plan and host fun activities in neighborhood parks, including picnics, movie nights or interactive art projects that provide opportunities to educate residents about GSI for their neighborhood parks. This will help pave the way for new and long-range opportunities to advance sustainable green landscapes throughout the city.
We are pleased to partner with the National Recreation and Park Association and look forward to learning from other partners’ best practices to provide meaningful community outreach here in Detroit.
Monica Tabares is the Development Director for The Greening of Detroit.