RETREET BLOG

RETREET is a kaleidoscopic group of bicycle and tree enthusiasts with strong backs, sharp minds, and big hearts who volunteer to replant communities whose trees have been lost to natural disaster.


 
WIMBERLEY RETREET II
March 25th+26th, 2017

We began to replant Wimberley, TX, in the wake of a devastating flood in January of 2016, as 33 RETREETers traveled to Wimberley from 7 states and Washington, D.C., to join 45 additional volunteers in planting 206 trees at 37 homes and 2 community parks during 8 hours of hard work. Given the success of our first event in Wimberley and the continued need for our services, we planned a second, similar event.

WIMBERLEY RETREET PLANTING GROUP (JANUARY 2016).

WIMBERLEY RETREET PLANTING GROUP (JANUARY 2016).

RETREET staff and volunteers began to arrive in Austin from as far away as Los Angeles, CA, Denver, CO, and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, on Wednesday, March 22nd. Together, they accepted trees and planting supplies from our partner The Home Depot Foundation, who granted $15,000 in support of our project, readied enclosures for each tree, and delivered all materials to home sites alongside staff from Myers Concrete Construction. Our volunteers even had time to grab a beer at the weekly Tree Hugger Happy Hour at Contigo in Austin.

BRAD HAMEL FROM TEXAS A&M FOREST SERVICE VISITS WITH A RESIDENT TO MARK PROPER PLANTING LOCATIONS.

BRAD HAMEL FROM TEXAS A&M FOREST SERVICE VISITS WITH A RESIDENT TO MARK PROPER PLANTING LOCATIONS.

Friday evening, the full complement of RETREETers gathered in Wimberley for dinner at The Leaning Pear. It was a wonderful welcome to this lovely Texas town. The next morning, the number of volunteers swelled to 110, including 55 members of Team Depot representing 12 stores, employees of H-E-B, Boy Scouts with Troop 127, Knights of Columbus, and students from Katherine Anne Porter School. After a planting demonstration given by Texas A&M Forest Service and a large group planting along the banks of the Blanco, 10 small groups formed and headed out to plant 201 trees at 50 home sites all across Wimberley.

VOLUNTEERS PLANT ALONG THE BANKS OF THE BLANCO RIVER.

VOLUNTEERS PLANT ALONG THE BANKS OF THE BLANCO RIVER.

Once all of the trees were in the group, the volunteers joined our partners and residents of Wimberley for an incredible feast prepared by La Cucina di Afrodita. Dinner was served in four courses and featured a dozen dishes, with a delicious selection of beer donated by Karbach Brewing Company.

CHEFS LAURA AND JUSTIN SPENT 3 FULL DAYS MAKING OUR COMMUNITY FEAST.

CHEFS LAURA AND JUSTIN SPENT 3 FULL DAYS MAKING OUR COMMUNITY FEAST.

After dinner, RETREETers retired to Cypress Creek Cottages for a relaxing soak in their plethora of hot tubs. They enjoyed breakfast together the next morning before taking a bike ride. What an impactful, enjoyable weekend. We can't wait to see everyone again on our next RETREET!

WIMBERLEY RETREET II PLANTING GROUP.

WIMBERLEY RETREET II PLANTING GROUP.

 


 
ROWLETT RETREET
December 8th-11th, 2016

The evening of December 26th, 2015, a massive EF4 tornado struck Rowlett, TX, a city located barely 15 miles from our headquarters. It was 1 of 9 tornadoes that tore through the suburbs of Dallas that night. The path of destruction through Rowlett was 1/2 mile wide and 4 miles long, with 1,145 homes and business damaged, 23 people injured, and 1 life lost.

When news of the disaster reached our community, we immediately knew we would be heavily involved in the recovery process. We held a meeting with our friends Texas Trees Foundation in early 2016 and set about building a powerful cadre of partners to tackle the massive project, one we knew would take years to complete. After perfecting our model over the past 5 years across North America, we were ready to bring its power home to help our neighbors.

THE TORNADO DAMAGE TO ROWLETT, TX, WAS IMMENSE

THE TORNADO DAMAGE TO ROWLETT, TX, WAS IMMENSE

Keep Rowlett Beautiful and City of Rowlett immediately came on board and began opening doors for us on the ground, connecting us to residents and other sources of local support. The Home Depot Foundation and Team Depot again stepped up, not only giving $16,000 in financial support for the purchase of trees and supplies, but also committing to provide 30 employee volunteers to dig holes with us on planting day. Over the next nine months, Reliant Energy, LUSH Cosmetics, KIND Snacks, EY (Ernst & Young), Richardson Bike Mart, Whole Foods Market, Earth Day Texas, The Great Seed Bomb, Preservation Tree Services, ONCOR, Atmos Energy, United Methodist Disaster Response - North Texas, and Church in the City all joined our coalition.

With so many offers of help, our focus widened to include development of a robust series of programs meant to highlight some of North Texas' best elements. A truly unique week began to take shape. ROWLETT RETREET was in the works.

THE HOME DEPOT CONTINUES TO BE AN INCREDIBLE PARTNER

THE HOME DEPOT CONTINUES TO BE AN INCREDIBLE PARTNER

RETREETers began to arrive in Dallas on Wednesday, December 7th, from as far away as California, New York, and Mexico City. Our good friend Ron Finley, The Gangsta Gardener, also flew in for the week. That day, we visited Bonton Farms, Paul Quinn College, and McCarty & Maathai Community Garden — all urban gardening initiatives that inspire us!

Whole Foods Market - Lakewood also held a 5% Giving Day, during which they donated 5% of the day's net sales in support of our local operations. We set up a promo booth near the entrance and shared our story with every customer who stopped by to check out our shirts and prints. It was an excellent event that generated nearly $5,000 for the cause and added quite a few names to our email list.

5% GIVING DAY AT WHOLE FOODS MARKET - LAKEWOOD

5% GIVING DAY AT WHOLE FOODS MARKET - LAKEWOOD

Thursday, the 8th, RETREETers delivered trees and mulch to home sites in Rowlett with the help of Texas Trees Foundation and Preservation Tree Services. Over 230 trees reached their final planting locations that morning, awaiting the attention of skilled volunteers.

Following that distribution, our staff headed back to Dallas to host a screening of "Can You Dig This" at The Texas Theatre. The film, hosted in partnership with Earth Day Texas as part of the TEDxSMU Film Series, showcases Mr. Finley's work to educate and empower residents of South Central LA to plant their own food. Over 200 people attended, and lots of great questions were asked during a Q&A with Mr. Finley following the screening. It was a memorable evening that introduced a lot of new people to our community.

A CROWD GATHERS AT THE TEXAS THEATER FOR OUR SCREENING OF "CAN  YOU DIG THIS" WITH RON FINLEY

A CROWD GATHERS AT THE TEXAS THEATER FOR OUR SCREENING OF "CAN  YOU DIG THIS" WITH RON FINLEY

The next day, Friday, the 9th, RETREETers went on a bicycle tour of Dallas led by Richardson Bike Mart, who also loaned us extra bicycles from their esteemed fleet. We visited White Rock Lake, The Santa Fe Trail, Deep Ellum, Downtown, and Dealey Plaza. Though it was a bit cold outside, we had a great time rolling around on two wheels.

After dropping off tools and other supplies at Church in the City, our staging location in Rowlett, and stopping at a local resident's home for an interview with ABC news, we made our way over to Mudhen Meat and Greens, a farm-to-table restaurant located in the newly renovated Dallas Farmers Market. There, we held our official welcome dinner. 

ON OUR BICYCLE TOUR OF DALLAS

ON OUR BICYCLE TOUR OF DALLAS

Planting day arrived! An incredible group of 200 volunteers braved the cold to gather on Saturday morning, the 10th, in Rowlett, ready to transform neighborhoods. The mayor of Rowlett and several city council members addressed the assembled crowd, as did our executive director and the director of operations for Texas Trees Foundation. The excitement was palpable. After posing for a group photo, 15 teams were formed. Each team was given a planting demonstration on the ground of the church, then sent to a list of homes. All told, 245 trees, all 15-gallons in size, were planted at 134 locations in 5 hours.

THE ROWLETT RETREET PLANTING GROUP

THE ROWLETT RETREET PLANTING GROUP

Not only did volunteers come out for ROWLETT RETREET en masse, so did the press! Every major news channel ran a full story about our effort. We were honored to receive such coverage. The stories ran all weekend and even spread to other markets around Texas.

ABC

ABC

NBC

NBC

CBS

CBS

Dallas Observer

Dallas Observer

Saturday night, we held a celebratory dinner at The Urban Cloud, our new live/work compound in Southeast Dallas. Food was prepared by Chef Justin Box of The Cedars Social, who also served us during TREE FEAST last May. Friends and family of RETREETers joined in the fun and festivities lasted well into the evening.

The following morning, we joined The Great Seed Bomb to make and drop 750 seed bombs during a hike through the Lower Chain of Wetlands in The Great Trinity Forest. It was a relaxing way to cap and impactful weekend. Until the next one!

 


 
OKC RETREET II
November 12th+13th, 2016

We began our work in Moore, OK, last year in the response to the devastating EF5 tornado that struck on May 20, 2013. Winds reached up to 210 mph, killing 24 people and injuring 377 others. The aftermath was major international news and our involvement in the recovery was a sure thing, especially given the proximity to our home base in Dallas. Initial contact in Oklahoma was made through Texas A&M Forest Service, with whom we have partnered in Bastrop, Wimberley, and Possum Kingdom Lake, TX. After a year of planning, OKC RETREET took place at the end of Oklahoma Arbor Week in late March 2015, during which 168 trees were planted at 77 home sites with the support of Oklahoma Forestry Services, City of Moore, Arbor Day Foundation, Serve Moore, and The Home Depot Foundation. It was the first step in the transformation of an unfamiliar and barren landscape.

DESTRUCTION FROM THE MAY 2013 TORNADO

DESTRUCTION FROM THE MAY 2013 TORNADO

At the beginning of this year, the Neighborhood Alliance of Oklahoma contacted us with exciting news: Lions Clubs International had funding available to continue our important work in central Oklahoma and our local partners recommended RETREET for the job. In mid-June, we inked plans for OKC RETREET II - NeighborRoots and began forming our coalition, building upon the previous year's cadre. With this newfound support, we knew OKC RETREET II would be our best event yet.

LIONS CLUB INTERNATIONAL FUNDED OKC RETREET II

LIONS CLUB INTERNATIONAL FUNDED OKC RETREET II

Following months of careful planning, RETREET staff arrived in OKC on Monday, November 7th, and set about making final preparations for the planting the following weekend. By that time, OKIE 811 had marked all utility lines at every home and a member of TEAM LOCATE, a coalition of local partners including representatives from Oklahoma Forestry Services and Oklahoma County OSU Cooperative Extension Service, already had visited with each resident and determined the best planting location for every tree.

RETREET STAFF FINALIZING PLANS IN THE NACOK OFFICE

RETREET STAFF FINALIZING PLANS IN THE NACOK OFFICE

As the weekend drew close, donated supplies began to arrive in support of the project. The Home Depot Foundation delivered mulch, tools, and gloves, Waste Management dropped off a recycling dumpster, KIND Snacks gave boxes of bars, and Richardson Bike Mart loaned bicycles to RETREETers traveling from far and wide. On Thursday, staff from City of Moore delivered the trees, beautiful specimens sourced from Greenstock Nurseries, to homes. The stage was set.

DELIVERING TREES TO HOMES IN SOUTH OKC AND MOORE

DELIVERING TREES TO HOMES IN SOUTH OKC AND MOORE

RETREETers began planting on Friday, the 11th, in Shawnee, a small community about 40 miles east of OKC. The following day, 78 volunteers representing 7 states gathered in Veterans Memorial Park. There, they were instructed in proper tree planting techniques, after which they practiced planting in the park. Small groups were formed and issued a complement of tools, water, snacks, and lunch. They were then sent to 10 homes sites each. By the end of the day, 215 trees, all 15-gallons in size, had been planted at 175 homes. The planting party celebrated a job well done at Serve Moore Community Renewal Center, where guests were treated to a Persian feast from Chef Daniel Avazpour and the musical stylings of Dirty Little Betty's. A number of locals for whom trees had been planted that day joined the fun.

TEAM DEPOT POSES WITH LOCAL MEMBERS OF LIONS CLUB INTERNATIONAL, OKLAHOMA FORESTRY SERVICES, AND RETREET STAFF

TEAM DEPOT POSES WITH LOCAL MEMBERS OF LIONS CLUB INTERNATIONAL, OKLAHOMA FORESTRY SERVICES, AND RETREET STAFF

The following day, RETREETers enjoyed a special tour of the grounds of Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum courtesy of Mark Bays from Oklahoma Forestry Services, who had a major hand in both the design of the park and the care of the Survivor Tree. After that, the group geared up for a bicycle ride around Lake Hefner. The perfect finale to an amazing weekend! Check out the PHOTO ALBUM.

RETREETers VISIT THE SURVIVOR TREE

RETREETers VISIT THE SURVIVOR TREE

 


 
SUNDAY SHOW & TELL
vol.115

A rather strange mystery has developed in Midtown Omaha. Who is stabbing trees in public parks with meat-wrapped knives, and why?

STABBING TREES WITH MEAT? (video)

STABBING TREES WITH MEAT? (video)

Over the past 25 years, a fascinating transition has taken place in areas of England that were absolutely decimated by mining operations. It's incredible to see what a few million saplings can do given the right amount of time.

FIXING A BROKEN LANDSCAPE (article)

FIXING A BROKEN LANDSCAPE (article)

Is your city one of the most bicycle friendly in the US? Click the link below to find out!

THE BEST BIKE CITIES IN NORTH AMERICA (article)

THE BEST BIKE CITIES IN NORTH AMERICA (article)

Have you ever wondered what a squirrel sees as it zips through the trees? Well, one inquisitive individual grabbed a GoPro and took it on a canopy tour. This is a really fun video to watch.

A SQUIRREL TAKES US ON A TOUR OF THE TREES (video)

A SQUIRREL TAKES US ON A TOUR OF THE TREES (video)

 


 
SUNDAY SHOW & TELL
vol.114

Most people think a forest is something that exists far away, a bastion of nature untouched by human development. Not so, says TED Fellow Shubhendu Sharma. Click below to learn how you can grow a complete, complex 100-year-old forest in your own backyard, in just 10 years. We're already digging!

GROW A FOREST IN YOUR BACKYARD (essay/video)

GROW A FOREST IN YOUR BACKYARD (essay/video)

Once your backyard forest has been established, crush another commonly held misconception: that forests are places in which trees just battle for supremacy, a vast competition for resources. In fact, trees do more than help each other out in times of need, they collaborate. Another fascinating TED Talk on that subject follows.

HOW TREES TALK TO EACH OTHER (video)

HOW TREES TALK TO EACH OTHER (video)

Life surely has ups and downs, low points and moments when you're riding high. That being said, no one rides higher than Felix Guirola of Havana, Cuba. If this picture isn't clickbait enough, what is?

TALL BIKING IN HAVANA (article)

TALL BIKING IN HAVANA (article)

 


 
SUNDAY SHOW & TELL
vol.113

Amazingly, one of the first fruit trees planted by European settlers upon reaching US soil is still alive, well, and bearing fruit. The Endicott pear took root in 1630 and ever since has been lauded and carefully cared for by many, though it has encountered its fair share of trials and tribulations through the centuries as well. A fascinating tale!

US FRUIT TREE PLANTED BY EUROPEAN SETTLERS (article)

US FRUIT TREE PLANTED BY EUROPEAN SETTLERS (article)

We've posted several stories of incredible efforts to plants trees in India, but this one takes the cake. This past Monday, more than 800,000 people from all walks of life planted almost 50 MILLION trees in 24 HOURS in Uttar Pradesh, absolutely crushing the world record set by Pakistan in 2013. Read more about this planting and the $6.2 billion the Indian government has put aside to funds such efforts.

50 MILLION TREES PLANTED IN INDIA (short article)

50 MILLION TREES PLANTED IN INDIA (short article)

In 1919, a powerful group of women came together in Eureka, CA, with a single purpose: to save the Redwoods. Their incredible efforts were revolutionary at the time. Not only did they challenge established gender norms, these women created one of the first environmental movements in the US.

THE WOMEN WHO SAVED THE REDWOODS (article)

THE WOMEN WHO SAVED THE REDWOODS (article)

 


 
SUNDAY SHOW & TELL
vol.112

A major construction project is underway on the east coast of the US, one that will allow cyclists to visit 15 states on a single bike path. Stretching 3,000 miles, The East Coast Greenway will showcase 450 communities visitors on two-wheels, providing an amazing opportunity to travel the country. Let's do it!

EAST COAST GREENWAY (photo essay/video)

EAST COAST GREENWAY (photo essay/video)

A massive fire swept through part of Spain in 2012, charring thousands of acres. When the ashes settled, a startling discovery was made. A group of cypress trees still stood tall and green. But why? Could these trees be used to lessen the impact future wildfires? Read about the enigma of the trees that resist the flames.

FIRE RESISTANT TREES (article)

FIRE RESISTANT TREES (article)

Ramadan ended on July 5th, but this story continues to inspire. A 26-year-old woman named Nouran Salah in Egypt created a successful initiative to feed the poor by bicycle. She and her following deliver meals each of the 30 days of Ramadan, bringing Iftar to those in need. Learn more about Bel Bicycle below.

FEEDING THE POOR BY BICYCLE IN EGYPT (photo essay/video)

FEEDING THE POOR BY BICYCLE IN EGYPT (photo essay/video)