This week we’re joined by Patti Erwin, State Urban Forestry Coordinator for the Arkansas Forestry Commission. Patti is a certified arborist and the State Representative with the Southern Chapter International Society of Arboriculture. Patti enjoys traveling, music and playing in the dirt.

Ever since I met Delia Haak several years ago, the collaboration between the Illinois River Watershed Partnership (IRWP) and the Arkansas Forestry Commission (AFC) has continued to grow.


The Arkansas Forestry Commission presents Springdale City Councilwoman Kathy Jaycox with a Tree City USA banner and plaque during the 2008 Riparian Project.


It’s hard to pick my favorite project, but it has certainly been fun and exciting to watch the IRWP’s Riparian Project grow year after year.  During the annual Riparian Project, volunteers plant thousands of native tree seedlings throughout the Illinois River Watershed while also celebrating Arbor Day. Even though the event occurs in March, we have planted in every type of weather, even sleet and snow. IRWP Springdale volunteers

Volunteers in ponchos and parkas brave the sleet to plant some tree seedlings.

Volunteers of all ages now participate in the program, and it is such a great way to educate people, without them even realizing it, how important trees are for clean water in our communities. Eight communities, two counties and scores of businesses, local groups and various agencies partnered with IRWP this year to help plant over 4,000 seedlings!

Along with the tree planting program, AEP-SWEPCO decided to join the excitement and offered to develop a tree nursery at their Flint Creek Power Plant so the seedlings could be grown to a larger size before planting.

 Employees of AEP-SWEPCO load up a trailer of pine seedlings to transport from the Flint Creek Power Plant Tree Farm to a planting site.

Employees of AEP-SWEPCO load up a trailer of pine seedlings to transport from the Flint Creek Power Plant Tree Farm to a planting site.

Did you know that 100 mature trees intercept about 100,000 gallons of rainfall per year in their crowns, reducing runoff and providing cleaner water? A canopy assessment recently done for the City of Fayetteville shows that their 36% canopy collects over 21 million gallons of water and helps reduce the cost to manage storm water runoff.

The most recent project that IRWP and AFC have undertaken is along the Northwest Arkansas Razorback Greenway beginning at the northern point of Bentonville and extending to south Fayetteville. Riparian forest buffer zones will be planted along the major urban tributaries to the Illinois River, including Townbranch, Osage Creek, Spring Creek, Clear Creek and more. Stayed tuned and watch for tree plantings, low impact development and educational kiosks at various trailheads along the Razorback Regional Greenway.

Volunteers from Crafton-Tull helped the IRWP and AFC plant native tree seedlings along Osage Creek near the Mercy Trailhead of the Razorback Regional Greenway in Rogers.

If you would like to start a project in your community, please do not hesitate to contact the Arkansas Forestry Commission or the Illinois River Watershed Partnership, as both organizations are always looking for new partners and ideas.  Happy planting!

Additional Resources:

Arkansas Forestry Commission

IRWP Conservation and Restoration

Arkansas Forestry Commission Tree Seedlings

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