Source: Brent Barron, “New initiative looks to transform the future of DeKalb communities along the South River,” MDJOnline
Atlanta, GA (April 11, 2017) – Led by community revitalization organizations, a new initiative will fund and support a number of urban forest projects in the network of streams and forests running through southwest and southeast DeKalb County and the City of Atlanta.
New urban forestry projects will include forest protection and restoration, greenspace management, neighborhood beautification and water quality testing.
Community organizations the conservancy is partnering with for the initiative include Park Pride, the South River Watershed Alliance, Trees Atlanta, the Wylde Center and a number of “Friends of” groups.
The projects will be community-driven and aim to address environmental issues impacting the communities along the 60-mile-long South River as well as those neighborhoods indirectly connected to it via tributaries that feed in.
The goal behind all projects is to positively impact water quality through forest restoration and related programs, said Myriam Dormer, urban conservation director for the conservancy.
“We do not feel planting trees equals cleaner water, but we do know that actively engaged and informed residents can advocate better on a city and county level for the type of green infrastructure they want to see,” Dormer said.
While Dormer said DeKalb County does test water, the sanitary sewer overflows need more immediate response time than is currently provided. The idea with the initiative is to recruit and train local citizens to both aid in the testing of river water quality as well as learn about conservation, she said.
A lot of the water from the South River ends up in tributaries, carrying with it a lot of pollution, Dormer said. This includes visible things like bottles and tires and invisible elements like chemicals and exhaust and oil from automobiles — all carried through sensitive areas like Arabia Mountain and Panola Mountain.
While environmental concerns were a large piece of the initiative, Dormer said the second piece was to focus on communities that were less economically wealthy.
“Looking at Atlanta, we saw ourselves working on the Chattahoochee River initially, but we noticed a real gap along the South River — another heavily urban river, but without the extent of resources the Chattahoochee has,” Dormer said. “And if you work in communities more economically challenged, you stand to leverage your investment in a way that both improves people’s lives and helps protect biodiversity.