I’ve updated this post to reflect that several members of city council did indeed bring up my request at the meeting last night about including fruit trees in the landscaping — my follow-up email about that is at the bottom of this post.
Hi, Mayor and City Council. I see on the city council meeting agenda for Monday mention of the specific public street trees and bushes intended for the Winters Chapel Path (and presumably other paths in the future). Just a reminder that the incorporation of edible landscaping such as fruit trees and berry bushes increases the food security and resilience of a community.
Those of you who have been around awhile may recall this came up when trees and bushes were added to Brook Run years ago. As a result of advocacy and Dunwoody Parks Director Brent Walker’s awareness of the importance of this issue, there are now serviceberry and pawpaw trees as well as aronia berry bushes along the greenway there — although what has appeared to be toxic landscaping in recent years near the aronia berries deem them unacceptable for safe human consumption, which is unfortunate because I know some you enjoyed the berry cobbler made from those aronia berries that I shared with City Hall a number of years ago:
There are literally dozens of fruit and berry trees and bushes along the PATH network in and around Atlanta (as well as throughout neighborhoods, at libraries, and elsewhere). I forage from them from May through November. It’s a fun community-enhancing experience that people walking, running and using bikes and wheelchairs enjoy freely. See one of several pages about it from my book, shown below.
Much of this edible landscaping was planted by Trees Atlanta, or more specifically, by a man named Robby Astrove (prior employee of Trees Atlanta, currently the park ranger at Arabia Mountain, recipient of numerous grants and often hired for his expertise. — you may enjoy this post about when he showed how to make cocktails with the public bounty at both the Atlanta Food and Wine Festival and at the Polo Club in Canton). Please, please, please ask the PATH foundation for recommendations of best varieties (such as serviceberry trees, which are beautiful in all seasons, relatively small, absolutely delicious and do not drop their berries in a messy way) to incorporate in our community as a future-thinking sustainability attribute.
Fun fact: we (the founders of the Dunwoody Community Garden) harvested the pears from the tree in front on the farmhouse in the center of Dunwoody Village for about five years in a row. (Another group even took it over for a few additional years.) Councilor Heneghan helped arrange it in coordination with Chief Grogan. It took a handful of volunteers, a tarp, and just a half hour early on a Sunday morning (a police officer blocked the nearby traffic lane for that short while as a volunteer shook the tree and they cascaded collectively into the held tarp). Here’s a popular post about the first time, when we yielded almost 600 pounds of delicious pears (after runners and walkers had already picked all the lowest-hanging fruit in the week prior) and donated the bounty to area food pantries.
(Please note that Rod Pittman, whom you will see in that blog post is one of the volunteers who climbed the tree to shake it, died this past September at age 93. You may additionally appreciate this post about his important and successful peach tree experiment in Brook Run Park, which the city removed in order to create an open “play field” in a spot that was already an open play field AND had the shade, beauty and bounty of peach trees but now no longer does: will-they-know-about-this-man.html).
Bottom line? When given the chance to plant, think food. It is an important part of a long-term sustainability commitment. Speaking of which, I see that the City of Decatur has a specific Climate Resilience Plan (note: this goes way beyond the current City of Dunwoody Sustainability Plan). Do we currently have one or have plans to have one? The very first line of Decatur’s plan is:
As the world feels the impacts of our changing climate, there is an imperative at the local level to build community resilience.
Trust the journey (which is about to take me here),
UPDATE: March 13, 2023
Good morning Mayor and City Council. I viewed last night’s city council meeting online. Thank you to several of you for mentioning the request for fruit trees as part of the trail landscaping on Winters Chapel as well as looking ahead to the citywide multi-use path plan with the PATH Foundation. Mayor Deutsch asked about an approved street tree list. I see in a prior blog post of mine from 2011 that I provided feedback on our city’s memo about the viability of public fruit trees. Black walnut, serviceberry, crabapple, and pawpaw were already on that approved street tree list. Per Mayor Deutsch’s question last night, the current approved street tree list is in the Municode at Section 16-116. I see additionally pecan and hickory, but I now don’t see serviceberry. (If that has been removed as a street tree, it should still be heavily considered as park trees. They are absolutely amazing beautiful mid-size trees with stunningly delicious, health-enhancing, non-messy fruit.)
Just as our public works director indicated last night, after your thoughtful questions, that he would swap out some of the trees on the current Winters Chapel list for more native choices, there is no reason to not add several fruit and nut trees as well as they are already on the approved list. Contrary to a comment that the “train has left the station” on the Winters Chapel planting list, it is never too late to do the right thing for the triple-bottom-line sustainability of our city.
In addition to my previously-mentioned endorsement of aronia berries (the juice of which is often included in expensive “super fruit” juice you may buy at places like Whole Foods), which are already included on the path in Brook Run Park, blueberries are fun to nibble while walking on paths. They were planted for easy public enjoyment in the Olmstead-designed linear parks in Druid Hills as well as at Mercedes Benz Stadium (a whole grove of them). Here is a photo of a ripening branchful at the stadium. Check it out next time you go to a game! (They also have a food garden, but that doesn’t allow public access.)
I know that Robby Astrove, the Johnny Appleseed of Atlanta, wrote a follow-up email to you introducing himself. I strongly recommend you consider his consulting with the city in partnership with the PATH Foundation so that we can create a citywide path landscaping plan that incorporates these fruitful elements. In fact, wouldn’t it be something if the City of Dunwoody actually became a nationwide leader in this effort? Again, these are public-space elements that I would have been happy to share with you on any of the bike rides I’ve invited you to join me on throughout Atlanta over the years, as these trees and bushes are in many, many places now.
Trust the journey,