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Lending a hand in Dade.

"Cool Communities is a program that clearly makes sense," said Dade County Commissioner Charles Dusseau. "It makes sense to plant trees to make our community beautiful. It makes sense to put them in places that have the greatest impact, and it obviously makes sense to rebuild our community after Hurricane Andrew."

Hurricane Andrew's destruction of Dade County's trees and forests mobilized scientists, government officials, citizen activists, and businesses to join AMERICAN FORESTS in Miami on January 13 for the launching of two environmental improvement programs.

Both Cool Communities and the Global ReLeaf Environmental Emergency Fund use a community's diverse interests and skills to plant and care for trees, which restores the urban environment and saves energy. At a press conference in downtown Miami, AMERICAN FORESTS and the Environmental Protection Agency formally announced Dade County as one of seven participating "Cool Communities." The announcement was delayed for several months while the community picked up the pieces after Hurricane Andrew hit last August, destroying 90 percent of the urban forest in some areas of Dade County.

In that time, AMERICAN FORESTS, in cooperation with local advisors, intensified its research on how to restore the damaged forest. It also started laying the groundwork for the Global Releaf Environmental Emergency Fund, which will assist local groups in their restoration efforts.

At a Texaco-sponsored luncheon following the press conference, the Cool Communities program was further explained to environmental, business, government, and media representatives from the region. Gary Moll, AMERICAN FORESTS vice president for urban forestry, explained how aerial photography, computers, and geographic information systems can help assess the effects of Hurricane Andrew and be used to help rebuild a new urban forest that could become a model for the nation.

The diversity of participants represented the breadth of interest in rehabilitating Dade County's damaged ecosystem. Among the close to 100 participants were: commissioner Dusseau; Cory Barish, from EPA's regional office in Atlanta; Donna DeLeon, EPA, Washington, DC; Ed Macie, U.S. Forest Service; Sidney Levin, vice president, Florida Power and Light; Michael Trevino of Texaco; state urban forester Rick Vasquez; and representatives from Trees for Dade, The Davey Tree Expert Company, and numerous organizations, agencies, and businesses.

Neil Sampson, executive vice president of AMERICAN FORESTS, underscored the importance of local action--a tenet of AMERICAN FORESTS' national Global ReLeaf campaign--by noting, "We're not like the standard group that says we're here from Washington and we're ready to help you. We hope to be the kind of people that come in to cheer for you, but the work, initiative, and power is all in this room."

Local artist Federico Carosio's vibrant, expansive paintings of Miami's trees hung from the walls, contributing to the energy in the room and serving as a reminder of what the newly announced programs strive to achieve. And, as reminders of who will benefit most from these programs, children from the Vineland Elementary School entertained the guests with songs.


To the students and teachers at Sweetwater Elementary School in Dade County, Florida, Tim Womick and his message of planting and caring for trees is an inspiration not easily blown away--not even by the most destructive of hurricanes.

Womick, the marathon-running promoter of trees, visited Sweetwater Elementary in March of 1992 while running across the state of Florida planting trees and inspiring students. When he returned to Sweetwater this past January to kick off a week of education and action for Dade's trees--including the launch of the Cool Communities program--he expected to have his work cut out for him. It would certainly be a challenge to elevate spirits and interest students in helping replant the damaged urban forest of south Florida. After all, they had seen the immense damage that falling trees can cause.

Womick, however, found a school that welcomed him back as a hero. Principal Maria Rodriguez, her staff, and students had truly been inspired by his message the year before and responded with creativity and energy: kindergarteners greeted Tim in song, the first-graders read him their tree book (which may soon be published commercially), older students recited a poem of commitment, and the running club--dedicated to personal health to complement environmental health--unveiled its new t-shirt and new name, the Tim Womick Running Club.

Dignitaries representing the school board, the governor's office, and AMERICAN FORESTS participated in the ceremonies and helped plant a large shade tree in a school courtyard.

Global ReLeaf's volunteer youth coordinator for Dade County, Samantha Ibarguen, told the students of her efforts organizing fellow high school students to raise money for the Global ReLeaf Environmental Emergency Fund to help replant the urban forest in Dade County. Womick presented Molly Feltham-Adams, landscape architect for the school and Cool Communities Advisory Committee member, with a half-dozen Famous & Historic trees for planting on school grounds.

Everyone then formed a huge gauntlet through which they sent Womick as he began his 1993 Run for Dade County, a 30-mile "jog" he completed later that day in the south end of the county in Homestead. Throughout the next week Womick visited county schools, planted trees, and shared his infectious energy. Then he headed north. In February he was to run across the state of Georgia.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:includes related article; Dade County, Florida
Author:Wright, Lori
Publication:American Forests
Date:Mar 1, 1993
Previous Article:The hand of man.
Next Article:Forestland giveaway.

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