Paige Bridgens and Ruthy Woodring: Where once there was a car lot, let there be a forest

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Lum3n/via Pexels Lum3n/via Pexels

Published: 04-02-2024 5:12 PM

Modified: 04-03-2024 2:54 PM

Imagine a forest emerges from that wasteland of asphalt on King Street north of Foster Farrar. Imagine oak and hickory, an understory of ironwood, winterberry, serviceberry and woodland wildflower species. Shade cools the urban heat island effect, air is refreshed, rainwater absorbed, carbon sequestered. Our human selves feel rejuvenated as we work to heal land that has been trashed.

We as a community could decommodify that piece of land, depave that asphalt, restore the soil. We could plant and tend a forest there. Communities across the world are experimenting with planting pocket forests in urban areas. We have everything we need to make this happen right here on King Street.

Imagine depaving parties, where we wield pry bars to remove the asphalt that’s asphyxiated the soil for decades. We spread organic matter to restore the soil. Kids in the rewilding classes at the various schools bike over for planting, tending and learning land stewardship skills. Folks haul water by bike for watering the trees in their first year or so, as they have done in previous planting projects.

This forest would need no tie-in to water, sewer or grid. No parking lot. No mowers or leaf blowers. No Wi-Fi or broadband. It could simply be a woodland.

Actually, some years ago the reforestation process got underway at this site as oak trees pushed through the asphalt. They now stand tall along the rail trail there, ready to offer kinship to the younger trees that would come. They serve as an impressive example of what we could expect of trees on that site.

You may think this is the dream of some delusional tree huggers, but we have yet to meet up with anyone who’d rather see a car lot there than a forest. The oaks show us nature is ready and willing to breathe life into that space.

Paige Bridgens


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