Brookhaven, GA, May 1, 2017 – by Eco-A, EcoAddendum.org, Contributed – What a night! Over 300 people showed up for Discovering Atlanta’s Original Forest, a celebration of Atlanta’s old growth forests, hosted by non-profit EcoAddendum at Emory University on April 25th. The event was designed to raise awareness about the special nature of the urban forest of Atlanta, which includes–who knew?–pockets of old growth and original forest remnants from practically the heart of the city to most corners of the metro area, including Brookhaven.
Informative presentations were followed by a panel discussion and an induction ceremony, where 15 forests from the Atlanta area were inducted into the national Old Growth Forest Network.
Brookhaven’s Director of Parks & Recreation, Brian Borden, City Arborist, Steve Strickland and long-time Brookhaven resident and National Wildlife Federation Volunteer Team Leader, Tom Reilly, accepted the certificate of recognition for Brookhaven’s Osborne Park as it was inducted into the Old Growth Forest Network at the highest level, as a “Dedicated Forest.”
Other DeKalb County inductees included Fernbank Forest, accepted by Susan Neugent, CEO, and Eli Dickerson, Ecologist, of the Fernbank Museum of Natural History, and the Briarlake Forest and Hidden Acres Nature Preserve, accepted by Marvin F. Billups, Jr., Interim Director, DeKalb County Recreation, Parks and Cultural Affairs.
Keynote speaker Joan Maloof, founder of the national Old Growth Forest Network, spoke eloquently about the unique aspects of old growth forests that nurture significantly more species than disturbed forests. Surprisingly, even forests that are re-established over time cannot provide the higher degree of bio-diversity found in un-disturbed forests. Much of this is due to complex associations of small — sometimes microscopic, but extraordinarily important — species such as extensive networks of mycorrhizal fungi that connect trees with nutrients they could not otherwise access. Additionally, these fungal networks connect trees to each other, creating a “wood-wide web” of communication and resource sharing between trees, even of different species.
Eco-A Director, Kathryn Kolb, illustrated with beautiful photographs how accidents of history gave Atlanta its special forest, and showed how to identify these remnants of the original forest in our neighborhoods. Atlanta’s Commissioner of Planning and Community Development, Tim Keane, explained new proposals that aim to create an overall assessment and plan for Atlanta’s urban forest.
The speakers were followed by a panel discussion, moderated by Maria Saporta, Saporta Report. The panelists astutely identified both opportunities for, and barriers to, protecting remnants of Atlanta’s original forests. Among the ideas expressed were:
- a need to educate the city’s leadership about the necessity of preserving this unusual resource.
- change attitudes toward development so a forested area is not seen as “empty” and, therefore, a preferred site for development.
- identify forests that should be preserved and advocate for city investment in them.
The panelists were:
- Jacqueline Echols, PhD, Director, South River Watershed Alliance
- Darryl Haddock, Director of Education & Proctor Creek Ambassador, West Atlanta Watershed Alliance
- Professor John Wegner, Department of Environmental Sciences, former Campus Environmental Officer, Emory University, and
- Mario Cambardella, Atlanta’s new Director of Urban Agriculture, substituting for Atlanta’s Chief Resiliency Officer, Stephanie Stuckey, who was pulled away at the last minute for a meeting in Los Angeles.
The Emory event attendees additionally had the opportunity to voice their questions and concerns and write statements collected by the Atlanta Office of Sustainability. Many expressed frustration at the accelerated tree and canopy loss of recent years, but many also expressed optimism that by educating decision-makers, mechanisms can be developed that include saving more high value trees and forests as part of the development process. Solutions discussed include new urban planning and design, and creating more effective tree ordinances, so that communities no longer have to choose between trees and new development.
The good news is Atlanta has more tree canopy than any other major city in the United States. The challenge is how to conserve the existing tree canopy and to identify and preserve precious remnants of original forest that still exist. To that end, 14 forests in the metro Atlanta were inducted into the national Old Growth Forest Network at the end of the event, including Osborne Park in Brookhaven, which was recently discovered to hold an original forest remnant by long-time Brookhaven resident Tom Reilly, and Eco-A Director and Master Naturalist Kathryn Kolb.
In addition to thirteen public forests, two private forests were inducted into the network. In both of these forests, property owners removed large quantities of English ivy and other invasive species without using any chemical treatments in order to restore the healthy native biodiversity of their forests.
Listed below are the forest inductees from the metro-Atlanta area, and those accepting the certificates of recognition at the event. A small sign with the Old Growth Forest Network emblem will also be provided for each forest.
Briarlake Forest and Hidden Acres Nature Preserve DeKalb County
Marvin F. Billups, Jr., Interim Director, DeKalb County Recreation, Parks and Cultural Affairs
Cascade Springs Nature Preserve, City of Atlanta
Edith Ladipo, Friends of Cascade Springs Forest, President, Cascade Community Business Association
Cumberlander, City of Atlanta
Jena Jones, Nature Photographer, Videographer, Greenspace Advocate
D’Agnese tract, City of Atlanta
Susan Rutherford, Watershed Manager, Sr., City of Atlanta Department of Watershed Management
Daniel Johnson Nature Preserve/Herbert Taylor Park, City of Atlanta
Sally Bayless, President Lenox Park-Morningside Neighborhood Association
Deepdene Park, DeKalb County
Sandra Stewart Kruger, Executive Director, Olmsted Linear Park Alliance
Fernbank Forest, DeKalb County
Susan Neugent, CEO, and Eli Dickerson, Ecologist, Fernbank Museum of Natural History
Herbert Greene Park, City of Atlanta
Barbara Leath, Boulder park Neighborhood Association
Lionel Hampton-Beecher Hills Nature Preserve, City of Atlanta
Bruce Morton, Friends of Lionel Hampton Beech Hills Nature Preserve, Co-Chair Atlanta Tree Conservation Commission
Lullwater Conservation Garden, City of Atlanta
Jennie Richardson, President, and Kim Storbeck First Vice President, Lullwater Conservation Garden Club
Osborne Park, City of Brookhaven, DeKalb County
Brian Borden, Director of Parks & Recreation, and Steve Strickland, City Arborist, City of Brookhaven; Tom Reilly, Volunteer Team Leader, National Wildlife Federation, Adjutant VFW Post 10822
Outdoor Activities Center, City of Atlanta
Alyssa Combs, Board Secretary, West Atlanta Watershed Alliance
McConaughey Nature Preserve and Historic Site, DeKalb County
Mary Emma and Dan McConaughey
Mosman Forest, City of Atlanta, Fulton County
Wendy Hogg and John Noel