Hurricane Matthew caused significant damage to Savannah’s tree canopy and neighborhoods, costing $13 million in tree debris removal and unknown losses in water storage from mature trees. As our region experiences extremes in weather, municipal governments look to tree canopies and green infrastructure to improve their community’s resiliency to the effects of major storm events at a very local level. Additionally, there are over 350 flood-prone FEMA vacant lots throughout Savannah’s low-income neighborhoods that are underutilized assets.
This project intends to create urban tree nurseries and green infrastructure pilot projects on City-owned vacant FEMA lots through a green job training program. A portion of the plantings will become permanent green infrastructure, and a portion will be used in City rights of way, in the process creating pocket parks for the enjoyment of the surrounding communities.
This project was implemented through partnership with Georgia Sea Grant, UGA Marine Extension, Victory Gardens, Loop It Up Savannah, University of Georgia Extension, Savannah Tree Foundation, and Work Source Georgia. The City manages and assists implementation of the project.
Over 550 native tree species, both water and saltwater tolerant, were planted on vacant City-owned properties that were converted to urban tree nurseries. The species include black gum, river birch, eastern red cedar, bald cyprus, live oak, southern magnolia, and a variety of citrus. The design and implementation of the tree nurseries, including installation of drip irrigation systems and planting of the trees, was completed through a paid workforce training apprentice program. Youth from local schools painted their own designs on the tree pots and learned about the eco-value of trees. In one to two year, the trees will be planted in permanent, low-lying locations throughout the City on both public and private property. This will serve to mitigate flooding impacts from storm events. Long-term, the City is working to identify resources and partnerships to continue this program for years to come.