Accessibility/Mobile Features
Skip Navigation
Skip to Content
Editorial News
Lifestyles
Classified Sites

The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Detroit woodlands project volunteers to plant 15,000 trees

In a photo from Thursday, May 15, 2014, volunteer Ricky Carnline waters the roots of tree saplings at the Hantz Farms in Detroit. A mass tree-planting effort is planned for Saturday, May 17, as part of a large-scale project by a company that wants to put vacant Detroit land to agricultural use. A daylong event is planned by John Hantz where volunteers will help plant 15,000 young maple and oak trees on 50 acres of land where crews have been clearing blighted properties for the project. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Enlarge Image

In a photo from Thursday, May 15, 2014, volunteer Ricky Carnline waters the roots of tree saplings at the Hantz Farms in Detroit. A mass tree-planting effort is planned for Saturday, May 17, as part of a large-scale project by a company that wants to put vacant Detroit land to agricultural use. A daylong event is planned by John Hantz where volunteers will help plant 15,000 young maple and oak trees on 50 acres of land where crews have been clearing blighted properties for the project. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

DETROIT - The holes — 15,000 of them — have already been dug in the two nearly block-long fields that once cradled homes and families but now make up one of Detroit's most distressed neighbourhoods.

On Saturday, those holes will be filled with maple and oak saplings, which John Hantz hopes one day will be a mini-forest in the middle of the city.

"Let the trees grow. Let them beautify," said Hantz, a 53-year-old entrepreneur who believes agriculture and forestry can refill Detroit's abandoned acres.

His Hantz Woodlands project on the east side was approved last year by Detroit's state-appointed emergency manager and also calls for the cleanup of 140 acres of land and the razing of 50 vacant houses. It aims to improve the face of the city and attract new residents and is separate from city-planned large-scale demolitions and other blight-eradication efforts.

Detroit has about 700,000 residents. Over the past two decades, more than a quarter-million people have moved from the 139-square-mile city. A recently completed survey is expected to reveal just how many houses and buildings sit vacant, though estimates a few years ago put the number well above 30,000.

"I've lived here 20 years, and I've spent a lot of those years waiting for someone to do something," Hantz told The Associated Press on Thursday at the tree-planting site. "It dawned on me: I'm going to quit complaining about it like everybody else and go try to do something."

Hantz, founder and chief executive of the Hantz Group, a network of financial services businesses, estimates that he's spent more than $1 million so far acquiring the land from the city, clearing it and disposing of everything from gas tanks to "hundreds upon hundreds" of dumped tires to even a boat.

The saplings cost about $20,000.

"We have to get people to stay. Once they stay then we can begin to add development ..." he said

As former City Council president and mayor, and now head of an ambitious 50-year plan to reshape the Motor City, Ken Cockrel has worried about what to do with Detroit's estimated 20 square miles of vacant, abandoned and underused land.

"That's equal to the size of Manhattan," said Cockrel, executive director of the Detroit Future City implementation office.

Hantz Woodlands is consistent with recommendations in the Detroit Future City plan, which also looks at job creation, green space, transportation, growth and investment opportunities.

"It is an opportunity to take a lot of this vacant property that was a liability and turn it into an asset," Cockrel said.

Once planted, the rows of saplings will be across the street from Ray Anderson's home. The 57-year-old city of Detroit retiree said he will join 1,200 other volunteers to help with the planting. So will his family and members of his church.

His house is one of only a few left on his block.

"It's been a blessing," Anderson said of the woodlands project. "This was an ugly neighbourhood, an ugly place. Now you can look outside and look toward the future."

  • Rate this Rate This Star Icon
  • This article has not yet been rated.
  • We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high. If you thought it was well written, do the same. If it doesn’t meet your standards, mark it accordingly.

    You can also register and/or login to the site and join the conversation by leaving a comment.

    Rate it yourself by rolling over the stars and clicking when you reach your desired rating. We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high.

Sort by: Newest to Oldest | Oldest to Newest | Most Popular 0 Commentscomment icon

You can comment on most stories on brandonsun.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is register and/or login and you can join the conversation and give your feedback.

There are no comments at the moment. Be the first to post a comment below.

Post Your Commentcomment icon

Comment
  • You have characters left

The Brandon Sun does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. Comments are moderated before publication. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

Brandon Sun Business Directory
Sudden Surge: Flood of 2014
Opportunity Magazine — The Bakken
Why Not Minot?
Welcome to Winnipeg

Social Media