Chicago company ditches Battle Creek tree farm project

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek
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BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (AP) — A project to turn empty southern Michigan land where a school once stood into a sprawling tree farm and flower garden has been abandoned.

Greenprint Partners recently returned the vacant 2 acres in Battle Creek to the city and school district, the Battle Creek Enquirer reported. The Chicago-based environmental company planted roughly 1,000 poplar trees on the former Wilson Academy land before ending the project.

Battle Creek was grappling with an aging housing stock and blighted properties when the city approved the tree farm at the end of 2015. The school was among several buildings that the city tore down around that time.

Greenprint’s tree farms in other cities have been transitioned into forests as a way to absorb excess stormwater runoff that could overflow sewer systems. The company said it has moved away from that model since 2016.

Rose Jordan, the company’s spokeswoman, said the original tree farm model wasn’t scalable. Jordan didn’t immediately respond to an Associated Press’ request for more information on the decision.

City employees have decided they want to remove the trees, said Christine Zuzga, Battle Creek’s planning manager.

“We just don’t have the manpower to maintain (them),” Zuzga said, adding that poplar trees require a lot of upkeep.

She said there isn’t a plan for the portion of the site that the city owns.

“We own about 250 vacant properties … and we are always looking to explore options for their reuse,” Zuzga said.

Battle Creek Public Schools Superintendent Kim Carter said the school district is still determining next steps for its portion of the property.

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