Downtown Pontiac gets GREEN
By Dustin Blitchok, The Oakland Press
Downtown Pontiac promises to be leafier after a nonprofit group plants about 20 trees later this month that will be paid for with the help of grant funding.
Developer Bob Waun said the trees will improve the downtown environment. Waun, who owns properties such as the Indian Hill building and former United Way office, applied for the grant from the Ann Arbor-based nonprofit ReLeaf Michigan.
The grant includes some funding from the Department of Natural Resource’s Urban and Community Forestry Program, as well as matching funds from a private donor. Waun said the city doesn’t have the ability to pay for trees, so grant funds and private donations are filling the gap.
“People need to see something happening to get up behind it, and we think trees are a very visible sign of life coming back to town.”
About three to four dead trees on Saginaw Street will be replaced and the remainder will be planted on Wayne Street. ReLeaf Michigan Executive Director Melinda Jones said her organization has planted about 28,000 large trees in 350 Michigan communities.
ReLeaf’s last visit to Pontiac saw about 100 trees planted in the Indian Village neighborhood in partnership with Goldner Walsh Garden & Home.
“Pontiac is a great area (to plant) because it needs more trees that will mitigate stormwater runoff,” Jones said. “Trees are an excellent way to improve the quality of life for residents, as well as to improve the business climate in downtown Pontiac.”
About 40 volunteers are needed July 12 to help plant the trees. Part of ReLeaf Michigan’s work is educational: Jones said volunteers will leave with knowledge of how to properly plant a tree.
Trees can lower temperatures by 10 degrees, and studies have shown that customers are willing to pay more for goods and services in business districts that have more trees.
The species that are to be planted July 12 include hybrid elms, Kentucky Coffeetrees, Japanese Tree Lilacs and Winter Hawthornes.
“You want diversity because you don’t want to have a situation similar to the Emerald Ash Borer,” Jones said.
The executive director said she sensed that Pontiac’s downtown community is committed to the city’s comeback.
“This isn’t a flash-in-the-pan effort,” Jones said. “They’re all very committed to Pontiac and the revitalization of Pontiac.”
A special thank you goes out to one of our local business partners, Downtown 51 Grille, who held a charity fundraising event called Summer Solstice to create a new celebration in town. In partnership with the Pontiac Downtown Business Association the Summer Solstice helped raise funds for Downtown Pontiac improvements. Those monies raised will be directly going to the tree planting as part of the match with Re-Leaf Michigan. The Summer Solstice will be helping to plant new trees up and down Saginaw Street as well as to move the Downtown Pontiac grass park development under works.
About 40 volunteers are needed for a ReLeaf Michigan tree planting that in downtown Pontiac from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, July 12.
Volunteers are encouraged to bring equipment such as shovels and rakes. Work is available for people with all levels of physical capability.
For more information, contact ReLeaf Michigan at 1-800-642-7353, visit www.ReLeafMichigan.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.