Greening of Macomb starts in Utica

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published November 22, 2016

UTICA — On Nov. 14, volunteers and construction equipment came together to create a bioswale along Utica’s new hike and bike path and the Clinton River to catch and treat stormwater runoff from the adjacent gravel parking lot for Jimmy John’s Field.

The site was one of two demonstration locations for Macomb County’s Urban Forestry Partnership program, which is geared at increasing the tree canopy in the county and naturally reducing pollution.

“The city of Utica is proud and thrilled that (the partnership program) chose us as one of the two demonstration projects,” Utica Mayor Jacqueline Noonan said. “We spent the last 29 years trying to bring in things like our hike and bike trail; cleaning up and improving the river; using the river; the ballpark and the parking lot, so this is just icing on the cake.”

The other demonstration project took place at the Macomb Community College South Campus. Volunteers planted approximately 250 trees at two bus stops on 12 Mile Road.

Volunteers from ReLeaf Michigan, Six Rivers Land Conservancy and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Motor Citizens program helped install more than 330 native plants, shrubs and trees in Utica Nov. 14.

The plantings included a variety of native grasses and wildflowers, viburnum, eastern redbud, bald cypress and eastern red cedar.

Environmental Consulting and Technology developed the planting designs to be both functional and beautiful. Emily Lowery, of ECT, said such multipurpose plantings can be replicated throughout commercial corridors, businesses and in residential landscaping.

“On a parking lot like this, heavy metals from brake pads on cars could easily go straight from the parking lot down through the storm drain into the river, but by planting native plants, you end up filtering the water,” she said. “(They also) slow the flow of water into the river.”

Gerard Santoro, program manager of land and water resources for the county, said the umbrella project Green Macomb kicked off with a $20,000 grant from the U.S. Forest Service and a $20,000 match from ITC Holdings. The Utica DDA also contributed $2,000 to the project in celebration of the city’s 200th anniversary next year, and approximately $9,000 came from in-kind donations from program partners.

With that beginning, he said, the county secured a $350,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Over the next 18 months to two years, he said, the county intends to plant 1,000 trees in 13 communities along the Clinton River and solicit matching donations from municipalities to plant more trees.

Half of the 1,000 trees, he said, would be distributed based on municipalities’ populations and areas; the other 500 would be awarded based on established criteria for special projects.

“Some communities are at 11 percent tree canopy; our goal is to get it up to 40 percent,” Santoro said. “We are in the area in southeast Michigan that really has been affected so greatly by Dutch elm disease, emerald ash borer and infrastructure changes, where the trees get taken out for infrastructure.”

By adding more trees in Macomb County, he said, home values, water and air quality, shade and aesthetics would increase.

For more information about the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development’s Green Macomb initiative, call (586) 469-5285 or visit www.green.macombgov.org.