More than 1,000 volunteers have helped the University of Idaho Sustainability Center plant 11 different types of trees and other vegetation on and off campus in its Get Rooted initiative. Another planting session will occur 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. April 6 behind the Facilities Services building.
UISC Director Adria Mead said Get Rooted events consistently draw many volunteers.
“Our Get Rooted program is one of our most popular programs,” she said. “It gets you outside (and) it’s a really nice atmosphere, and you feel like you’re making a real and permanent impact because you’re planting a tree that’s going to be there for years.”
Alex Rheault, UISC volunteer coordinator, said volunteers for the April 6 event will plant five different species of native Idaho trees, shrubs and groundcover. The UISC works with the staff at the Sixth Street Greenhouse Complex to ascertain the plants with the highest survival rates in relation to different planting areas. Rheault said it’s a trial-and-error process to determine what arrangement of factors best suits the plants’ survival.
“We do our best to make these trees survive but they don’t always make it through,” Rheault said.
Mead said she conducted a year-and-a-half long thesis research project on the Get Rooted program. She discovered about 92 percent of the new plants had survived from 2010 to 2012 at one location.
One element that contributed much to the survival rate, she said, was the mulch and tree bark used to stabilize the plants. Mulch also helps the plants retain moisture and prevents weeds and grasses from invading the area cleared for the new vegetation. Mead said the protective blue tubes that volunteers put the plants into also help at particular sites with significant wind and wildlife influence.
Rheault said the UISC sends people to help with site upkeep after initial planting is finished. She said the volunteers always work hard and will probably plant more than they expect.
“It’s fun to see everyone get excited about it,” Rheault said. “We’ll start with a big supply of trees and say we’ll just plant half of them, but the volunteers will get them all finished in a small amount of time.”
Funding for Get Rooted comes from the Sustainability Center Tree Fund. Donors can give $3.50 through the University of Idaho Foundation, Inc. to sponsor a seedling, its blue protection tube and wooden stake. Mead said the UISC gets more donations for the Tree Fund than for its overall sustainability fund.
“Having this tree fund guarantees us that we can plant some trees every year, and we consistently get people who love to donate,” Mead said.
Because of its high level of current Get Rooted financial support, Mead said the UISC has begun a tally of “Likes” on its Facebook page. Volunteers will plant a tree for every Facebook “Like,” up to 1,000 trees. Mead said the total is now more than 300.
Mead said new vegetation benefits the campus and the people. No one wants to step in Paradise Creek and get an infection from the pollution in run-off rainwater.
“It’s important for aesthetics to have a clean creek, it’s important for our health and it’s important for our ecosystem,” Mead said.
Matt Maw can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org