Established in 1946, the Genesee Conservation District (GCD) was created to protect the environment and natural resources in Genesee County. “We are a grassroots organization,” explains Administrator Angela Warren. “The GCD was formed as a result of the effects of the Dust Bowl in the 1930s. Our aim is to work with landowners and land managers of public and private land to implement conservation best management practices.” Like other Michigan Conservation Districts, GCD is governed by a local, publicly-elected, five-member board serving four-year terms.
The GCD is grant-funded and overseen by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. “We have a historical relationship with the USDA and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and partner with other local agencies,” Warren states. The GCD works in collaboration with the City of Flint and provides forest management for all city-owned trees throughout Flint. “We offer technical assistance,” she adds. “Though we are not a tree service, we do provide property owners with recommendations and insight about tree care.”
Another resource the GCD offers the community is education regarding natural resources and available technical services, as well as education about implementing conservation best management practices (BMPs). The staff includes experts who help with traditional and urban agriculture, soil health, forestry and water quality – from large tracts of land to vacant lots, Warren reports. They also educate the public about invasive plant species and wildlife habitat. As an example, someone will call with a question about how to attract more wildlife in their backyard. “We give them advice they can implement on a voluntary basis,” she says.
“We are here to serve the natural resource needs of the entire community.”
As GCD administrator, Warren works with the board of directors, oversees all programs, activities, finances and grant management. The main office on Elms Road is open to the public. “People can come in or we can schedule an appointment to visit with them on-site,” she states. “We are here to serve the natural resource needs of the entire community.”
One GCD project takes place annually on Arbor Day, which is the last Friday in April, when they plant trees in city parks. This year, GCD planted 225 seedling evergreens in Pierce Park – red pine, white pine, Norway spruce – with help from 18 community volunteers. The trees will eventually help block traffic noise from Dort Highway. In the past, GCD has planted trees in Longway, Cronin and Broome Parks. “Longway Park is now a budding coniferous forest!” Warren exclaims. “Additionally, this past April, we planted 200 trees in Bicentennial Park in Grand Blanc with 60 middle school students from the Perry Innovation Center.”
GCD has also done projects on some of the vacant lots in the City of Flint, including tree plantings and installing a pollinator garden. A vacant lot rehabilitation was done at Fifth and Garland Streets, which included benches and a walking path. Volunteers from General Motors worked with GCD on a vacant lot on Second Avenue between Mason Street and Grand Traverse.
Currently, GCD is working to complete the Gilkey Creek Subwatershed Project. “A walking survey is in process and will point out soil erosion, log jams and how it affects the water flow,” Warren explains. Another aspect of the project includes surveying for pavement that is no longer utilized, making way for a future depaving and green infrastructure installation project. “This all leads to better water quality,” she adds.
GCD has a coordinator who educates residents about invasive plant species. “She helps identify the species and maps it on a regional online tool called MISIN,” says Warren, “and offers to connect people with a company that can treat it.”
Warren is proud of the work GCD does every day. “We work with residents and farmers – no matter how large or how small.”
Warren is proud of the work GCD does every day. “We work with residents and farmers – no matter how large or how small,” the administrator shares. “They are welcome to reach out to us for assistance.” GCD also helps farmers and growers by connecting them to state and federal programs which offer Cost Share dollars for conservation implementation. One popular Farm Bill program offered in Genesee County is the High Tunnel Initiative, which cost-shares seasonal high tunnel (hoop house) construction in Flint and the surrounding areas. “The use of hoop houses extends the growing season,” Warren notes.
Warren, a Flint native, has been the GCD administrator for nearly 11 years. “It’s the best job!” she exclaims. “Doing something I’m passionate about doesn’t feel like work. I, along with our five-member board of directors and staff are passionate about natural resources.”
Grant Awarded to Plant Trees
In December 2021, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation granted $140,000 to the Genesee Conservation District to plant 250 trees throughout Flint’s nine wards over the next two years. Tree plantings began in the spring, with a goal of planting 200 in the first year. Planting sites will be based on multiple factors, such as residents’ interest, the presence of overhead wires and streetlights, availability of trees from nurseries and the salt tolerance of those trees.
GCD Administrator Angela Warren invites residents to request a tree to be planted in the grass strip between the sidewalk and curb in front of their house. She’d also like to hear from neighborhood groups who would work with GCD to plant multiple trees in their neighborhoods. Residents may contact GCD via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The benefits of a vibrant urban forest are numerous,” Warren said. “In order to maintain a healthy urban canopy, new plantings are an essential part of the equation. A healthy canopy reduces the amount of heat and humidity in a community, makes city streets more bike and pedestrian friendly, and even lowers the average driving speed.”
Photos provided by GCD