The tree farm project at the former Wilson School site on Spring Street – which was announced in March as part of a $1 million national investment toward the revitalization of urban land – has been planted.
The project intends to turn the property into productive green space that can help manage stormwater, improve ecosystems and lift up communities.
More than 1,000 hybrid poplar trees were planted on the site in early June. The site soon will be seeded with wildflowers to add to the area’s aesthetic value. An attached rendering illustrates how the site will look in five to 10 years as the plants grow.
“We are excited to have the trees planted and look forward to seeing the transformation that this project will have on what was previously a vacant city lot,” said city Planning Supervisor Christine Zuzga. “The project will be a dramatic improvement to the neighborhood. We appreciate Fresh Coast Capital’s interest in investing in our community and the city is looking forward to future opportunities to work with them.”
Currently the trees are just one or two inches tall, but will grow steadily to reach up to four feet by this fall. Next year, growth of five to eight additional feet can be expected, as the site develops into the intended park-like feel.
This site will remain open to the public for light recreation, such as dog walking, but no vehicles are allowed. As the trees establish themselves this summer, residents are asked to use caution and not step on or harm the new trees during the first, sensitive year.
There are numerous positive environmental, social and economic impacts from the project. The fast-growing trees are forecast to reduce stormwater runoff, the largest source of urban pollution into the Kalamazoo Watershed. Once they establish their root system, the trees can manage an anticipated 40,000 to 80,000 gallons of stormwater runoff per one inch of rainfall. The hybrid poplar species also is able to clean up a wide variety of residual contaminants on-site, from the time cars and buses served the school.
The greening of this space into a park-like amenity is projected to help stabilize property values in the adjacent neighborhoods.
Volunteers interested in helping with additional beautification of the site, including further installation of flowers, benches or walking trails, are invited to contact April Mendez, with Fresh Coast Capital, at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Chicago company has the mission of revitalizing vacant and blighted land in cities hard hit by post-industrial economic forces.
According to an agreement, the city and Battle Creek Public Schools will continue to own the site, while Fresh Coast Capital will provide site maintenance; staff are in the process of hiring local contractors to provide those services.
After about 15 years, the trees will be harvested for use in production of wood items, like furniture, with revenues used to pay back the cost of the project. At that time, the city and BCPS will decide on future use of the property.
“The Fresh Coast model partners with forward-thinking municipalities to turn vacant land – which is seen as a liability – into a unique and attractive asset,” said Fresh Coast CEO and co-founder Nicole Chavas. “We are ecstatic to have had the leadership and partnership of the City of Battle Creek and the Battle Creek Public Schools, as well as neighborhood residents, to make this project possible.”
Fresh Coast’s full $1 million project fund will be deployed to implement 60 acres of pilot projects across six cities, which equates to an estimated 27,000 trees planted and 28 million pounds of carbon dioxide sequestered over 15 years. Fresh Coast already is working in Gary, Ind. and Flint. Along with Battle Creek, new investments will be made in St. Louis, Elkhart, Ind., Kansas City, Flint and Youngstown, Ohio.