RETREET BLOG

RETREET redefines disaster relief by engaging communities to replant lost trees.


 
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!

 


 
BOULDER RETREET II
June 3rd-5th, 2016

Lyons, CO, is a community of about 2,000 people 15 miles north of Boulder. In the 1860s, families from the eastern U.S. began settling land that had been home to the Ute Nation. In 1881, Edward S. Lyon founded the town after buying 160 acres and opening a sandstone quarrying operation. Over the years, Lyons grew into a reputable destination for those wishing to spend time in its unforgettable scenery.

On September 12th, 2013, Lyons was severely affected by floodwater that inundated much of the front range, including Jamestown and Evans, the sites of our two previous Colorado RETREETs. The National Guard began evacuating the entire town at daybreak. One life was lost.

Last weekend, 35 volunteers gathered in Lyons to plant 100 trees at 20 homes and in Bohn Park. Their unique contribution to the landscape of that community greatly impacted the residents in a way that will be long remembered, much like their experience of participating in BOULDER RETREET II!

BOULDER RETREET II PLANTING GROUP

BOULDER RETREET II PLANTING GROUP

RETREETers began to arrive in Denver on Wednesday, June 1st, just in time for the Denver Cruiser Ride. A favorite from last year, the DCR's theme this time around was "The People of Walmart." We did our best to blend. Our group made a lot of new friends at the starting point, Little Machine Brewery, and at the The Dead End, the ceremonial end point which is little more than a cul-de-sac on the other side of the train tracks, under a bridge. A great party ensued.

DENVER CRUISER RIDE

DENVER CRUISER RIDE

The next morning, trees and supplies began to arrive in Lyons and RETREETers were on site to receive them. The Home Depot delivered mulch, wildlife protection, and tools, all of which they donated through a grant from The Home Depot Foundation. Trees, including Colorado spruce, wavyleaf oak, hotwings maple, and thinleaf alder, were procured from Fort Collins Wholesale Nursery and were purchased with funds granted by both Lyons Lions Club and LUSH Cosmetics. Staff from the Town of Lyons and the Parks Department helped deliver material to home sites with us that day, in anticipation of the planting. The previous week, members of Colorado State Forest Service met with each resident in order to mark appropriate planting locations. By the end of the day, we were set to plant.

SUPPLIES BEING DELIVERED BY THE HOME DEPOT

SUPPLIES BEING DELIVERED BY THE HOME DEPOT

On Friday, the 3rd, a dozen RETREETers gathered at Full Cycle, a bike shop in downtown Boulder that provided bicycles for folks traveling in from far and wide. Cyclists 4 Community, a partner from last year and a likeminded organization that has raised $200,000 for flood victims to date, then took us on a wonderful guided ride, a loop between Boulder and Lyons. It was an absolutely perfect day, group, and route.

RIDE AROUND BOULDER

RIDE AROUND BOULDER

All remaining RETREETers arrived in Colorado on Saturday and, once gathered, the assembly headed to The Outdoor Games. Everyone took turns enjoying the festival and manning the RETREET booth, a perfect opportunity to reach out to a highly receptive crowd. Luckily, we set up right in front of the BMX course, which made for some spectacular views. We capped the night with a group dinner at The Mediterranean and a stroll around Boulder. Talk about a taste of Colorado!

THE LYONS OUTDOOR GAMES

THE LYONS OUTDOOR GAMES

Sunday, members of Team Depot joined RETREETers for a demonstration planting in Bohn Park, after which a group planting was held. From there, small groups were formed and sent into neighborhoods, each planting at 5 homes. At the end of the day, the crew enjoyed dinner and drinks at Oskar Blues, in celebration with local residents. The mayor even popped by to say thanks!

DEMONSTRATION PLANTING IN BOHN PARK

DEMONSTRATION PLANTING IN BOHN PARK

Additional operational support for BOULDER RETREET was provided by Virginia Wellington Cabot Foundation, who approved a $10,000 grant in support of BOULDER RETREET II. We offer them our gratitude. We can't wait to come plant trees again in Colorado!

 


 
WIMBERLEY RETREET
January 16th-18th, 2016

On Memorial Day weekend in 2015, more than 12 inches of rain fell along the watershed of the Blanco River in just a few short hours. In Wimberley, TX, the river rose from roughly 5 feet to a crest just over 41 feet, far above the 13 feet flood stage and well past the all-time peak level of 32 feet set in 1929. Tremendous flash flooding ensued as a result.

Entire blocks of homes in Wimberley were swept away by a "tidal wave of water" (The Wall Street Journal). Officials reported 320 homes destroyed in the town and 12 people lost their lives. Many of the centuries-old trees that lined the riverbank and formed a major part of Wimberley's identity were reduced to piles of rubble.

The week after the devastating flood, a man named Ryan reached out to RETREET asking for help. Ryan said he had called agencies, organizations, and businesses all over the country to ask for assistance and was told time and time again to contact RETREET. He was overjoyed to have our office on the phone and was hopeful that we would be able to bring trees back to Wimberley. We immediately made a commitment to do just that. 

Heavy damage along the Blanco River.

Heavy damage along the Blanco River.

With the project announced, partners quickly began to come on board. First to step up were Arbor Day Foundation and Texas A&M Forest Service, who offered to provide $8,000 for the purchase of 15-gallon trees and to determine which tree species those should be, respectively. Then, meetings were arranged with Hays County Chapter Texas Master Naturalists and City of Wimberley, groups that would become invaluable local partners. As planting day approached, additional collaborators joined the cadre, including The Home Depot Foundation, who granted $7,500 in tools and materials, Richardson Bike Mart, who donated bicycle rentals for traveling RETREETers, Myers Concrete Construction, who provided trucks, trailers, and manpower to deliver trees and supplies to each home, and The Nature Conservancy, who gathered the residences that formed our planting list.

 

Our planting party began to arrive in Wimberley on Saturday morning, the 16th. Most took a bicycle ride that afternoon, led by a local cyclist, that started in Blue Hole Regional Park. After the ride, everyone enjoyed a free round courtesy of Twisted X Brewing Company. The group then sat for a fabulous meal at The Leaning Pear and, after dessert, wandered over to The Buzzard Bar for some evening entertainment. It was a fun introduction to town.

Sunday, January 17th, 33 RETREETers who had traveled to Wimberley from 7 states and Washington, D.C., were joined by 45 additional volunteers from all over central Texas, including students from Katherine Ann Porter Charter High School. All told, the group planted 206 trees at 37 homes and 2 community parks during 8 hours of hard work.

Following the planting, RETREET held a free community meal for all volunteers, residents, and partners—an epic Persian feast prepared by chef Daniel Avazpour.

Ready to replant homesites along the Blanco River.

Ready to replant homesites along the Blanco River.

A number of press outlets covered the event, including FOX, NBC, and The Weather Channel, which did a live, nationwide interview with our Executive Director onsite at the first planting location, a community park on River Road. It was an amazing opportunity to tell the story of the floods in Wimberley and RETREET's efforts to begin replanting the riverbank.

Live Nationwide Interview with The Weather Channel (video link)

Live Nationwide Interview with The Weather Channel (video link)

Greatest of all, though, was the feedback we received from the residents of Wimberley. We got phone calls, emails, Facebook messages, and even a hand-written letter praising the volunteers not only for their work, but also for their professionalism and cheery demeanor. We are proud to call so many amazing individuals RETREETers, and to know that their presence in Wimberley will be felt for generations to come. What an amazing community!

Thomas Thompson Letter JAN 2016.jpg
 


 
SUNDAY SHOW & TELL
vol.36

Ever wonder which trees do best when it comes to surviving disasters? Click the link below to find out!

Also, peruse 10 futuristic concept bicycles, some of which remind us of designs from a bygone era. What do you think? Would you like to ride any of these?

If you feel like watching a beautiful sunset that takes place behind an elegant tree, you can below. Worth viewing time and time again.

TREES IN DISASTERS

TREES IN DISASTERS

BICYCLE CONCEPTS

BICYCLE CONCEPTS

THE SUNSET TREE

THE SUNSET TREE

 


 
SUNDAY SHOW & TELL
vol.28

Some of our favorite links from the past week:

The Bamboo Bikes Initiative in Ghana teaches women how to build bicycles using resources that are available locally.

Qatar has epic plans to turn the desert into a lush forest.

Lance Armstrong give us a sneak peak into his new gig, fixing flats.

Ghost Forests allow us to know precisely when an earthquake struck.

Arbor Day and Earth Day are coming up fast! Lots of cause to celebrate. Get on your bikes and ride!

 


 
SUNDAY SHOW & TELL
vol.24

Happy Sunday!

This week, we share some bicycle and tree entries from the Guinness Book of World Records. Think you could best any? Also, a beautiful film about Tohoku, the region in Japan hit by the 2011 tsunami, its people, and their relationship to nature. Finally, in celebration of International Day of Forests, 9 facts you should know about forests and trees. Don't forget to click the links!

 

FROM THE GUINNESS BOOK OF WORLD RECORDS:

LONGEST DISTANCE CYCLING BACKWARDS

LARGEST CYCLING RACE

MOST VERTICAL METERS RIDDEN IN 48 HOURS

MOST TREES PLANTED IN 1 HOUR

MOST TREES PLANTED IN 12 HOURS

MOST DANGEROUS TREE

 

FACT ABOUT FORESTS AND TREES.

FACT ABOUT FORESTS AND TREES.

 


 
SUNDAY SHOW & TELL
vol.23

Ukraine has been in the news a lot in recent weeks. Did you know it is home to The Red Forest, a swath of trees destroyed by Chernobyl that is now a wildlife refuge for endangered species? If you find that story captivating, be sure to peruse the list of ten amazing tree tales including the Japanese Miracle Pine, a computer game that fights tree disease, and the most dangerous tree in the world. Before you go, let us introduce you to Elly Blue, the woman who says cycling is the key to a healthy economy.

RETREET IN THE NEWS! We received a nice mention for our work in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in the March/April issue of Orion Magazine. Click the link below to read the article.

THE RED FOREST IN UKRAINE

THE RED FOREST IN UKRAINE

TEN AMAZING STORIES ABOUT TREES

TEN AMAZING STORIES ABOUT TREES

ELLY BLUE

ELLY BLUE

 


 
SUNDAY SHOW & TELL
vol.4

The anniversary of Hurricane Sandy brought stark reminders that the recovery process for those affected will last for years and that the urban forest will take the longest to replace of all that was lost.  That being said, we are happy to have planted 14 new purple locusts at home sites in Belle Harbor, Queens over the weekend. 

Our first entry in this week's Sunday Show & Tell is a video shot by a group of cyclists who rode into the storm surge.  Then, a series of photos really puts the recovery process into perspective.  In commemoration of JFK Groves, which also took place this weekend, we have an archival film of the President planting a tree in Canada in 1961.

reTREEters planting purple locusts in Belle Harbor Queens during Sandy Anniversary Planting. 

reTREEters planting purple locusts in Belle Harbor Queens during Sandy Anniversary Planting. 

Belle Harbor, Queens, two weeks after Hurricane Sandy 










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(theatlantic.com).

Belle Harbor, Queens, two weeks after Hurricane Sandy (theatlantic.com).