The Housing Authority of Elizabeth (HACE) is one of the few in the nation to boast two “microforests” – densely planted trees and shrubs in compact urban spaces located within environmentally challenged neighborhoods to absorb carbon emissions, combat air pollution, and mitigate flooding.
HACE and Groundwork Elizabeth held a celebration on Sept. 29 to unveil a microforest at the Kennedy Arms Apartments in Elizabeth, which was made possible in partnership with the city, Kean University and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, and financed with a $367,000 Climate Preparedness Land Restoration Grant from Groundwork USA. HACE’s second microforest project is already underway at the O’Donnell Dempsey Senior Center.
These two urban microforests are among four made possible by Groundwork USA using the Miyawaki method developed in Japan. The method involves planting between 15 and 30 species of native trees and shrubs randomly together in a small plot. After 3-5 years, the microforests are self-sufficient, no longer requiring regular watering, and in 20 years, they reach maturity, providing shade, increased soil permeability, improved air quality, and habitats.
With a population of 135,000 people living in less than 12 square miles, the dense urban neighborhoods of Elizabeth are near one of the busiest ports on the East Coast, are in the flight path of Newark Airport, and at the heart of several major industrial transportation routes. These communities, which have minimal tree canopy and also experience flash flooding during heavy rains due to an outdated stormwater system, are ideal places for planting microforests.
“We’ve been a longtime partner of Groundwork Elizabeth, having worked alongside them to mitigate air pollution and provide services and programs for our residents,” said William D. Jones, executive director of HACE. “When they approached us with the microforest concept, we knew it was the perfect fit for HACE; a step to improve the health of our residents within the entire Elizabeth community.”
Groundwork Elizabeth was the first to create a microforest in the state, located behind the Elmora Public Library on West Grand Street.
“I am truly excited to announce the growth of this initiative with the second planting of another microforest here at the Housing Authority of the City of Elizabeth’s Kennedy Arms,” said Elizabeth Mayor J. Christian Bollwage. “This initiative represents a significant step forward in our commitment to the environment and the well-being of our community. We are creating a thriving ecosystem that will benefit our residents for generations to come.”
Photo Caption: (L-R) Groundwork Elizabeth Director of Operations John Evangelista, HACE Deputy Executive Director Catherine Hart, Groundwork Elizabeth Executive Director Jonathan Phillips at the Sept. 29 ceremony to unveil the microforest at the Kennedy Arms Apartments in Elizabeth. – Photo courtesy of Stateside Affairs.