RETREET redefines disaster relief by engaging communities to replant lost trees.
BOULDER RETREET June 20+21, 2015
On BOULDER RETREET, 25 RETREETers planted 96 trees at 21 homes in Jamestown, CO, making a major impact that will last for generations to come. A small community of 275 up in the mountains west of Boulder, Jamestown was once a prospecting destination, as thousands of men inundated the area in the late 1800s searching for silver and gold.
In 2003, most of the trees covering the hillside behind Jamestown burned in the Overland Fire. A decade later, on September 11, 2013, the community experienced a 1,000-year flood. Seventeen inches of rain fell in a single day, almost the average annual precipitation. With little to absorb the immense amount of floodwater pouring down the mountainside, nearby gulches were quickly overwhelmed. Floating debris damned up the main bridge in town and caused the river to breach its banks. Much of the town was buried in several feet of rubble; the landscape forever altered. Under a mandatory evacuation order, 90% of residents were airlifted to safety. Jamestown remained inaccessible by the main road for months. After nearly two years of rebuilding housing and infrastructure, the time came to replant trees and make it feel one step closer to home for those who live there.
RETREETers READY TO REPLANT JAMESTOWN
The first RETREETers arrived in Denver on Wednesday afternoon, the 17th, having made the long haul from Dallas. After settling into the funky Washington Park home we'd reserved on Airbnb, the group devised makeshift costumes to fit the theme of that evening's Denver Cruiser Ride: "Cardboard, Bubble Wrap, and Duct Tape." We hopped on our bikes and joined the vast menagerie of cyclists snaking through the streets, whose number eventually culminated in one of the largest two-wheel gatherings we have ever seen!
DENVER CRUISER RIDE
Thursday morning we rode to Golden, where the west begins and where Coors is brewed. The 45 mile jaunt was filled with diverse terrain and scenery. We observed the effects the recent rains had on the local trail system and, after a bit of wandering and a spot of lunch, we rolled back to the homestead and converged with newly-arriving members of our group. That evening, we enjoyed pizza just a stone's throw from our abode.
THE RIDE TO GOLDEN
On Friday, the day before the planting, RETREET staff oversaw the delivery of trees from Fort Collins Wholesale Nursery, a long-term partner whose stock is top notch. We then visited The Home Depot in Boulder, with whom we had filed a successful $2,000 grant application through the The Home Depot Foundation, in order to acquire compost, mulch, and tools needed for the planting. After a quick stop at Whole Foods Market on Pearl to pickup a $250 gift card given by the store to cover the follow day's lunch, RETREET staff reunited with the main group in Boulder, whose tally had grown significantly during the preceding hours as new RETREETers arrived from afar. After dinner, our caravan climbed up the mountain to Balarat Outdoor Education Center, where we stayed for the weekend.
PICKING UP SUPPLIES AT THE HOME DEPOT
On planting day, RETREETers were welcomed to town by local representatives and treated to a presentation about the flood and its effects on the community. After a proper planting demonstration, given by members of Colorado State Forest Service and RETREET staff, the company broke into small groups and headed into the neighborhood. Six hours later, the majority of trees were planted, and the RETREETers were ready to celebrate. Jamestown Mercantile cooked up a delicious feast, with local brews and music on tap. Quite a few folks danced the night away! The rest went back to camp and made cookies.
Sunday, last few trees were planted and the remaining RETREETers went for a hike up Moorhead Gulch. There, evidence of the flood was clearly visible. We took a break to pan the river and struck gold!
PLANTING THE LAST TREE IN JAMESTOWN
BOULDER RETREET was a very community-based effort. Our team really plugged into the local scene. CLICK HERE to view the photo album and CLICK HERE to see the town's press release regarding the event. Our efforts marked a noticeable transition in the Jamestown's recovery efforts. Check out the letter below, which was sent to us by Nina Andaloro, Jamestown's volunteer and donations coordinator. A heartfelt and special thank you is offered to Virginia Wellington Cabot Foundation, whose $10,000 grant underwrote the event. RETREET is proud of the work we accomplished in Jamestown and we look forward to further plantings this coming winter, soon to be announced!
OKC RETREET March 28+29, 2015
We held our first conversation about OKC RETREET eighteen months ago, after our partners at Texas A&M Forest Service suggested we reach out to Oklahoma Forestry Services to setup a planting in the wake of an EF5 tornado struck Moore on May 20, 2013. The devastation had made international news: 24 lives lost, 1,150 homes destroyed, 4,000 trees swept away, and an estimated $2 billion in total damages. RETREET was eager to help our neighbors and excited to work in a new state.
Moore needed some time to heal, so we decided to wait a year, until the next planting season. In Charlotte, North Carolina, at the 2014 Partners in Community Forestry Conference last November, our Executive Director sat down with representatives of Oklahoma Forestry Services and Arbor Day Foundation to discuss the need for trees in Moore. It was the start of an amazing partnership. Together, we decided that both OKC RETREET and Oklahoma Community Tree Recovery Campaign, a newly launched project of Arbor Day Foundation, would take place the closing weekend of Oklahoma Arbor Week. Our national partner ACTrees suggested we reach out to Tree Bank Foundation, well-respected local nonprofit organization that would be a great resource for both events.
With dates selected and a team of partners at hand, RETREET set out to raise funds for the event and collaborate with local organizations. Once again, ArborGen offered to provide $2,500 towards the purchase of trees, allowing us to offer larger specimens to each family. JCPenney sent $2,000 in support of general operations and The Home Depotapproved a grant request for $1,350 of supplies, including mulch, shovels, pruners, gloves, pickaxes, and coolers. Hampton Inn & Suites gave generously reduced rates to our RETREETers.
Enthusiasm for OKC RETREET at the local level was palpable. Numerous entities, including City of Moore and SERVE MOORE wanted to be involved, and a whole host of volunteers offered to come out to plant trees. At the beginning of March, notifications were sent to residents of Moore regarding the availability of trees and, within three weeks, 193 requests were received, 2.5 times the 80 requests we expected to be able to fulfill. OKIE was contacted two weeks before the plantings so that all utilities could be marked and a representative from Oklahoma Forestry Services and its partners visited with each recipient thereafter to ensure that every tree would be planted in the right place.
Two days before OKC RETREET was set to begin, another tornado hit Moore. Though much less powerful than the previous one, enough damage was done that relief efforts had to begin all over again. Trees and RETREETers were en route and everything was lined up for the weekend. It was up to the City of Moore to decide whether or not to proceed.
After serious consideration, and with teams of volunteers cleaning up debris in multiple neighborhoods, the locals resolved to see OKC RETREET come to fruition and not allow the new storm to postpone our plans. Recovery efforts from one tornado would occur alongside relief efforts from another. #MooreStrong!
On March 28, 2015, a beautiful Saturday afternoon, 22 RETREETers were joined by 50 local volunteers in Veterans' Memorial Park. After a short welcome from city representatives, a tree planting demonstration, and lunch provided by Moore Beautiful, the assembly broke into small groups and planted a total of 162 trees in Moore, an even mix of 15-gallon Shumard Oaks and 7-gallon Redbuds, Oklahoma's state tree. The locations included Veterans' Memorial Park, the Community Renewal Center, and 78 home sites. All plantings were completed within 7 hours; a truly inspirational effort. Volunteers converged on the Community Renewal Center for a delicious dinner following the planting, sponsored by Silver Star Construction and whipped up by RETREET's own Daniel Avazpour.
Several TV stations showed up to cover the event and, that evening, while RETREETers enjoyed the nightlife of Bricktown, our story ran on most major networks in OKC. Over the following two days, affiliate stations all over the country picked it up.
Sunday morning, RETREETers gathered at Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. They were given a personal tour of the grounds by Oklahoma Forestry Services and then taken through the museum. After that sobering experience, the group went for a bike ride along the Oklahoma River and on some of its great bike paths. It was a perfect ending to a fulfilling and fantastic weekend.
RETREET would like to thank everyone who was involved with OKC RETREET in any way. We look forward to our next outing in the area and hope to return this fall. To help us plant more trees in Moore, consider SPROUTING A TREE!