by Gina Errico, Green Iowa AmeriCorps Member
Trees Forever has recently pledged to continue to manage our campus grounds without pesticides as part of the Good Neighbor Iowa healthy lawn initiative. This initiative coincides with Trees Forever’s new campus landscape improvement plan, which is now in its first stages thanks to a grant through the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, donations from individuals, and matching funds from the Hall-Perrine Foundation. The project will focus on mitigating nutrient pollution, stormwater runoff, and soil erosion into nearby Dry Creek and Indian Creek.
Good Neighbor Iowa is a statewide public health education initiative in partnership with the University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Energy and Environmental Education. The mission of Good Neighbor Iowa is to reduce urban pesticide use and encourage the appreciation of diverse lawns in order to protect water quality, child health, pets, pollinators and biodiversity. People across Iowa can pledge to be “Good Neighbors” and join the collective group that chooses to manage their lawn without pesticides.
Our AmeriCorps team members are working with Good Neighbor Iowa to increase the number of Good Neighbors, and the number of acres that are committed to not using pesticides. As land and water stewards, our Green Iowa AmeriCorps members are dedicated to protecting and conserving life on land and in water through environmental education and outreach.
By joining in and becoming Good Neighbors, and through the new campus landscape plan, Trees Forever is working hard to create a more eco-friendly and biodiverse environment. By making the decision to not use pesticides and other weed killers, we allow a diversity of plants to grow on our lawns, in addition to grass. With minimal maintenance and regular mowing, Good Neighbors can have lawns that are both aesthetically pleasing and beneficial to wildlife.
Situated right outside of a park and local waterway, the new campus plan will continue to support local wildlife by creating new habitats and food sources that will help increase local biodiversity. “It is possible to have a lawn that is both beautiful and biodiverse, one that looks clean and well-kempt but also protects Iowa’s waterways and wildlife,” said Kiley Miller, Executive Director of Trees Forever. “We want our campus to demonstrate that clearly.”
Trees Forever plans to start rolling out the new campus plan with renovations starting in spring 2022. Some specific features of the plan include:
- Creating pollinator habitats and how not spraying will aid in their health and well-being.
- Rain barrel and other water quality features
- Bioretention cell to capture runoff from the Trees Forever campus, thereby reducing nutrients and sediment flowing into Dry Creek and Indian Creek.
- Permeable pavers in the parking lot and outdoor educational area further reduces runoff
- Rainwater harvesting system will supply water for plantings on campus and elsewhere
- Trees will stabilize soil and reduce water erosion
- Native perennials and shrubs will enhance biodiversity
- Test plot where Trees Forever team members can assess effects of various watering levels and techniques