About five months ago, leaders from the Brady Heights Neighborhood Association north of downtown Tulsa were in search of a way to beautify their historic district while reducing the amount of pollution and noise caused by traffic along the L.L. Tisdale Parkway.
Once they got in touch with board members from local nonprofit Up With Trees, which has a relationship with the city of Tulsa to maintain local roads, their goal materialized in the form of a food forest — something they say is necessary for residents of north Tulsa, many of whom do not have easy access to grocery stores — that will grow between the 600 and 1200 blocks on the east side of the parkway, ending before the Pine Street exit.
“When I read the book (Restoration Agriculture by Mark Shepherd), I thought it would be amazing to do a (permaculture) project like this, but we didn’t have the land,” said Nathan Pickard, who serves as the Brady Heights Neighborhood Association’s vice president, of the idea for a food forest. “
And then I thought ‘Here’s this land that’s totally wasted right outside our neighborhood.’ ”
Pickard joined other association and Up With Trees members Saturday morning to plant more than 500 trees, including Chinese chestnut, pecan, plum, mulberry, cherry, apple, pine and jujube, which is a red date that originated in south Asia. Local Christian group Crossover Community Impact, headed by his brother, Justin Pickard, will work with children from the neighborhood to cultivate the fruits and nuts, Pickard said.
“I’m excited about neighborhood kids learning about food production and to see how it will impact their eating habits,” Up With Trees board member E.J. Oppenheimer said. “We’re creating a functional ecosystem that provides food for humans and also a habitat for bees and birds.”
In addition to providing a natural food source for the community, the project will help decrease water runoff, Oppenheimer said.
“Water normally will fall on a ridge and flow to a valley and then run off and go down the river to the ocean,” he said. “So what we did was built berms and (bio)swales on contour that spread (the water) out and sucks it in (the ground). It’s kind of a low-maintenance irrigation system that utilizes that natural rainfall.” Bioswales are depressions in the land that help distribute water to trees and plants more efficiently.
Brady Heights president Brian Parker, who lives near the forest area, said the trees would also help mitigate sound from the highway in a more aesthetically pleasing way than a concrete barrier.
“The neighborhood used to run across the land where the highway is now,” Parker said. “A lot of homes were derelict and torn down when they cut the Tisdale (Parkway) through here. It’s a good way to take back some of the space that was part of the neighborhood and use it.”