We are very pleased to announce the development of our fifth Microforest that will be planted on January 18th at Central Park in the Heritage Harbour community in Manatee County. As you know from past articles, START is a partner in the Suncoast Urban Reforesters (SURF), along with the Florida Veterans For Common Sense Fund, Inc, and the Sarasota Bay Rotary Club.

SURF is encouraging the use of high-performance Microforests as a replacement for inefficient turf grass near water bodies to reduce stormwater runoff that brings excess nutrients into the Sarasota Bay Watershed feeding red tide and other harmful algal blooms. Microforests are a specially designed assemblage of native trees and understory plants and bushes that grow very quickly because they are installed in a highly absorbent planting bed in a very dense pattern of three trees per meter. The well-crafted planting bed and dense planting configuration creates shade competition among the trees generating an extraordinary rapid growth rate. In fact, Microforests grow 10 times faster than a regular forest, are 30 times denser and are 20 times more diverse in plant species.

These characteristics make Microforests an excellent tool to help control stormwater runoff to improve the quality of our waterways. They also provide shade, new habitat for wildlife displaced by urbanization and they sequester carbon as a hedge against climate change.

The Microforest at Heritage Harbour will offer special educational opportunities because it is next to a playground and it will feature “exploration trails” that include educational signage for kids. The plants will have QR codes for instant identification and a larger instructional sign will greet visitors at the entrance. The forest’s adjacency to Beacon Lake will help improve its water quality.

The Heritage Harbour Microforest is funded by an investment by the community’s Master Association, a grant to START from the Climate First Bank Foundation and the Florida Veterans For Common Sense Fund, Inc.

START wants to thank the many volunteers who came to the site on November 9th to help install the forest’s water-absorbing plant bed. This includes the Manatee Master Gardeners, students from Ringling College of Art and Design and the hard-working volunteers from the host community and elsewhere.

If you are interested in volunteering to help plant trees and bushes at the Heritage Harbour Microforest on Wednesday, January 18th, contact Charles Reith at charles.c.reith@gmail.com or (703) 342-6185.

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