START, as a partner in the Suncoast Urban ReForesters (SURF) along with the Florida Veterans for Common Sense and Sarasota Bay Rotary Club, presided over the successful installation of our fifth Microforest at the Heritage Harbour Community in Manatee County on January 18th. SURF is dedicated to planting Microforests throughout the Suncoast to improve coastal water quality, abate climate change, and replace wildlife habitat lost to development. SURF’s Microforests range in size between a quarter and half acre and are designed to replace turf, which has few ecological merits, with a diverse assemblage of up to 50 native trees, shrubs, and understory species that are planted in a way that promotes the fastest-possible growth and maximum ecological benefit. Importantly, Microforests, once established, are maintenance-free eliminating the need for mowing, watering, and fertilizing that are needed to sustain turf.
The Microforest was planted at the Heritage Harbor Park and was generously funded by the Heritage Harbour Master Association along with matching contributions from the Climate First Bank Foundation and the Florida Veterans for Common Sense Fund, Inc. The planting of the half-acre Microforest was an enjoyable experience for over 100 participating volunteers. Sixty of them were carefully supervised children from The Mangrove School and the New Gate Montessori School. The teachers supervised the children while the Manatee Master Gardener Volunteers provided planting instructions for both the students and adult volunteers. Thanks to SURF’s careful preparation and ground work, the planting by the volunteers was both easy and fun to do enabling us to impressively install 1,800 plants in less than five hours.
The volunteers and spectators present learned the importance of using effective soil husbandry with woodchip mulch and vegetation in a combination that absorbs and retards stormwater, transpires potential runoff to the atmosphere, and removes nutrients from any runoff that does leave the site, thereby preserving water quality in nearby detention ponds and ultimately the Bay. They also learned about the importance of creating a more resilient landscape in the face of climate change by increasing the amount of shade, cooling the area down, and calming potentially damaging hurricane winds.
Now that the Microforest is in the ground, SURF’s finishing touches will be to add signs that identify the plants, teach kids about nature, and call attention to the beneficial birds and wildlife that will be attracted to their new home. We are also installing a bench and sundial for meditative forest bathing or Shinrin Roku, as it’s called by the Japanese who invented the mentally rejuvenating exercise.
Be sure to visit our new Microforest just south of the baseball fields and east of the playground at Heritage Harbour Park off State Road 64. For more information about a Microforest for your community or business, contact Charles Reith at charles.c.reith @gmail.com.