Like many communities, VillageWalk in Sarasota suffered some major tree damage during hurricane Ian. The damage was particularly severe along Camminare Drive where over 100 trees and shrubs were lost. This is a critical section of the community as the tree canopy and shrubs provided both cover from an unsightly aging wall bordering I-75 and noise abatement from the continual traffic along the busy highway. After Ian, the community had to decide how to effectively compensate for the loss of this critical foliage.

The community looked at two options, a traditional approach from a local landscaper using just three different tree species and an innovative Microforest proposed by START’s Charles Reith with a more diverse plant palate and the added advantage of more effective noise abatement. Preparing for a community vote, resident Viviane Silverman asked leaders from other communities who have successfully used Microforests to relate their positive experiences to the people at VillageWalk. The testimonials came from Forest Crooke and Bob Fleckinstein from Stoneybrook and Don Smith from Heritage Harbour. Ultimately, the residents chose the “Living Wall” conceptually shown above which will be a Microforest 30 feet wide by more than 2000 feet long.

In addition to improving the aesthetic appeal of the area by blocking the unsightly retaining wall and substantially reducing highway noise, the Microforest will also offer important additional water quality benefits by intercepting and absorbing the excess nutrients in stormwater that would wash into the road, the storm drains and ultimately downstream into the Bay.

START congratulates the community of VillageWalk for electing to employ this ecologically sound approach to such a multi-phased challenge.

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