Trees are an important element in every community. They create a peaceful, aesthetically pleasing environment, and enhance our quality of life by bringing natural elements into an urban setting. They provide cooling shade, deflect the sunlight, and reduce the heat-island effect caused by large spans of pavement. Trees contribute to the environment by providing oxygen, improving air quality, conserving water, and preserving soil. They filter the air by removing dust and absorbing other pollutants. Trees absorb and store rainwater to reduce runoff and sediment deposits after storms, which helps prevent flooding and the transport of chemicals into the river.
Trees also provide a way to transform blight to beauty as vacant, abandoned properties are converted to urban forests. Over the last five years, this idea has taken root in a mile-square area on Detroit’s east side known as Hantz Woodlands.
Within two years of the land purchase agreement being approved, Hantz Woodlands purchased and cleared 1,800 vacant or foreclosed city-, state- and DPS-owned lots on Detroit’s east side. Three hundred of these lots have been planted with 20,000 oak, maple, and poplar saplings in neat, evenly-spaced rows. Nine employees mow and remove brush from the lots, curbs and alleys to help make this Detroit square-mile safer, beautiful and clean.
Hantz Woodlands President, Mike Score, states forthrightly that the project is designed to be a for-profit enterprise. The purpose of the investment is, “to make the neighborhood livable and recover our investment over time, and we’re very confident we can do that.” There are options for how revenue can be earned. The trees could be sold to nurseries, landscapers and homeowners for landscaping purposes. Revenue could be earned by selling the hardwoods as timber. Maple trees could be tapped for sap.
Tree farms typically are a long-term commercial investment because of the time it takes for trees to mature. The plan is to use improved land management as a platform for economic and community development. Hantz hopes the project will spark other types of creative economic development and investment in Detroit neighborhoods.
Visit Hantz Woodlands website