Tree Planting to Improve Our Waterways

Looking around your community or in surrounding communities, concrete, cement, and asphalt seem to be moving in for the long term. Roof tops, parking lots, driveways and roads are considered impervious surfaces which are surfaces that do not allow water to soak into the ground. The effects from such a large amount of impervious surfaces can be detrimental to our soils and water ways, increasing the rate at which water would normally flow into our water ways, and quickly washing harmful pollutants into our streams and lakes. Maintaining and increasing the number of trees in urbanized areas is an important part of reducing stormwater runoff in the urban areas in Vermont. Trees will intercept rainfall within their canopy and allow the water to soak into the earth and evaporate back into the atmosphere rather than reaching our drainage systems. Trees and forests reduce pollutants by taking up nutrients and other pollutants from soils and water through their roots and by transforming pollutants into less harmful substances. Local efforts in urbanized areas in Vermont such as the City of Burlington are starting to help counter-act the effects of runoff from urbanization in effective and inspiring ways.

A great example is the Intervale Conservation Nursery (ICN), which was founded in 2002 and is dedicated to growing native, locally sourced trees and shrubs for riparian restoration and stormwater runoff projects throughout Vermont. These projects are adding trees to areas in Vermont which help to make the ground better able to absorb water and filter sediments and pollutants before they reach a stream or lake. The amount of planting projects that happen every year depend on the grants that the ICN receives each year. This past year, an incredible thirty thousand trees were planted during fifteen planting projects in several different locations in Vermont ranging from Williston to Shelburne and even areas in the Missiscquoi Bay.

Mandy St Hilaire, a UVM senior has had a very “hands on experience” working as an intern at the ICN for the past year where she helps to manage the conservation nursery. Last summer, she interned with ICN and aided in the design of a workshop and created four interpretive signs for the outdoor classroom in the buffer zone along the Winooski River off of the fields in the Intervale Center. Mandy's internship at ICN has been one of the “most rewarding experiences” she has gained as an undergraduate student at UVM.  This April will be a big month for all the nurseries around the state while they prepare to supplement material for spring planting projects. For this spring, the ICN is planning a community invasive species removal day in the buffer zone along the Winooski River. ICN hires a harvesting and planting crew for those spring months, usually from mid March to the beginning of June. For their other planting and community projects, ICN seeks out interested volunteers from the community to get involved with these projects or simply to help the staff in the nursery.

As the number one cause of stream impairment in urban areas, stormwater runoff is an issue to plan for in our increasingly urbanized towns in Vermont. Advocate on your own or get involved in planting projects to mitigate the effects of runoff from impermeable surfaces.

Author: Leslie Hendricks, 2014 UCF Intern

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