A small crew spent Wednesday morning planting poplar trees on several parcels of vacant land in St. Louis’ Wells-Goodfellow neighborhood.
A company called Fresh Coast Capital is leasing 42 parcels from the city’s Land Reutilization Authority for $1 a year. The city will receive about 2 percent of the revenue when the company harvests and seels the hybrid poplar trees in 10 to 12 years.
Mayor Francis Slay’s spokeswoman, Maggie Crane, said in the meantime, the trees will provide the neighborhood with a park-like atmosphere.
"It’s not just that they’ll be making some money from it when they sell these hybrid poplars ... but that the community will be able to enjoy it as well," she said.
Crane said the program is part of the mayor’s sustainability plan and a renewed focus on putting vacant land back to use. In the last six months the city has announced a Mow to Own program and as well as partnership with the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District to tear down 1,600 vacant homes.
Crane said transforming the vacant land at Clara and St. Edward avenues into a tree farm will save the city money.
"It costs thousands of dollars a year just to maintain these 42 parcels that you’re seeing," she said.
Not everyone in the neighborhood was enthusiastic when the plan was first announced at a news conference in March. Several residents said they wanted to see something more beneficial come into the economically-depressed area.
Kenneth McClamb told St. Louis Public Radio he had been hoping for a community garden that would provide fresh vegetables and fruit to the neighborhood.
"Is something being done to the land better than nothing?" McClamb asked "But we’re not going to prosper. The big contractors and the big business people are going to prosper."
Fresh Coast officials have said it will hire local people to maintain the trees. The small crew planting the trees on Wednesday were from Matt’s Healthy Woods & Wildlife near Columbia, Mo.
Crew member Tyler Cox said they had several residents in the neighborhood ask about what they were doing.
"The biggest thing is that when it’s planted they want it to be maintained," Cox said. "That’s going to make everyone happy."
He said the crew was marking out walking paths so neighbors could cut through the land and enjoy the trees.