By Jan Worth-Nelson
A dozen retirees from the College Cultural Neighborhood Association (CCNA) worked alongside a half dozen professional tree lovers more than half their age to celebrate Arbor Day in Pierce Park Friday.
The day also marked the City of Flint’s 22nd year as a “Tree City USA,” a national designation of the Arbor Day Foundation recognizing efforts to keep the community tree-filled and green, according to Angela Warren, administrator of the Genesee Conservation District (GCD).
Her crew of young conservationists joined the CCNA volunteers to plant 205 tiny evergreens — red pine, white pine, Norway spruce — donated by the GCD. Warren said they were spaced “randomly” to approximate a natural distribution.
The trees were planted in the far southeast end of the 80-acre park, which borders Dort Highway, to help eventually block traffic noise, Warren said.
Mike Keeler, president of the CCNA, said, “When we looked at the whole piece of property it was easy to come up with the idea of blocking the sight and sound of Dort Highway. Also, we picked this part of the site because it has the least buckthorn.”
Buckthorn is a persistent, thorny invasive species which had overtaken the former golf course in the years since it was closed and abandoned. Keeler and other volunteers from the CCNA have been laboriously removing the buckthorn over the past six months.
Pat and Jay Topping, who’ve lived in the College Cultural neighborhood for 35 years and raised their children in a house on Vernon Street built in 1928, said they were happy to show up to support the tree-planting effort.
Their thoughts about the tree planting project paralleled those of others who volunteered in the cool, bright sun.
“We’re here supporting the community and helping to revive nature,” Jay Topping, a retired lawyer, said. “We just do what we can.”
Pierce Park , adjacent to the College Cultural neighborhood and bounded by Gilkey Creek, is in the midst of an attempted rejuvenation. An 18-hole golf course owned by the city that had opened in 1964 closed after a period of financial difficulties in 2011. Since then, its clubhouse stood abandoned, was hit by arsonists in 2020, and finally cleared of the ruins 18 months later.
The CCNA has been communicating with the City of Flint and with the GCD in the past years, and developed a five-year strategic plan for the space, but plans have been in transition as the CCNA has decided to apply for 501.c. 3 nonprofit status and seek grant funding.
“We are grateful for the help we got for today’s tree planting from the GCD,” Keeler said.
EVM Consulting Editor Jan Worth-Nelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.