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The Flagship Event

What is Creek ReLeaf®?

The Creek ReLeaf Program is a collaborative effort of the Charlotte Public Tree Fund, Charlotte Mecklenburg Storm water Services, the Center for Sustainability at Central Piedmont Community College, the Sierra Club Central Piedmont Group, and our dedicated volunteers and financial supporters to plant trees in riparian areas (floodplain and stream buffers) of Mecklenburg County.

REGISTRATIONFOR CREEK RELEAF 2014 is now open!

What We Do

Leveraging contributions from our donors, members and partners, we purchase trees and organize volunteer tree planting events at select sites throughout Mecklenburg County. The sites are specifically selected to improve air and water quality, tree canopy, and wildlife habitat. Our volunteers make this possible by planting, mulching and staking new trees. In 2008, with funding from the Turner Family Foundation,  Mecklenburg County and the Charlotte Public Tree Fund, the Creek ReLeaf Program organized nearly 500 volunteers and planted 3,300 trees at multiple events. In 2009, with Funding from Scotties Tissues, Mecklenburg County and the Charlotte Public Tree Fund, we planted 2,500 trees along Torrence Creek in Huntersville to reforest about six acres. In 2010 our volunteers worked to plant 1,000 seedlings at Colonel Francis Beatty Park in January. At Creek Releaf 2010, 530 volunteers planted 2,000 trees along the Little Sugar Creek Greenway in Charlotte. This was funded by the Mecklenburg Soil and Water Conservation District, a generous grant from Scotties Tissue, and additional support from the Blumenthal Foundation, the Johnson Ohana Foundation, Duke Energy, Heartwood Tree Service, Arbys, Amelie’s French Bakery, Starbucks,and Do Your Part. In 2011 our volunteers numbering 560 planted 2,000 trees and 26 very large trees along Briar Creek in Charlotte and on the Myers Park High school campus with funding support from the City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and the Mecklenburg Soil and Water Conservation District.In kind supporters included Heartwood Tree Service, Arbys, North American Landscaping and Starbucks. Duke Energy provided gloves to our volunteers. In addition to trees planted at our targeted sites each year, our volunteers have taken more 1,200 tree seedlings home to plant in their yards and neighborhoods. In 2012 over 500 volunteers planted 1800 trees along Irwin Creek along Andrill Terrace.  We also planted 18 large oak trees at two additional sites in Charlotte.  Our major donor was American Forests with a generous grant.  In kind supporters included Heartwood Tree Service, Arbys, North American Landscaping and Starbucks. Asplundh Tree Service provided gloves to our volunteers. In addition to trees planted at our targeted sites each year, our volunteers have taken more 1,200 tree seedlings home to plant in their yards and neighborhoods.

Click here to read the Charlotte Observer’s article about the 2009 event.

Click here to read the Observer’s article about the 2010 event.

You can also see pictures of our Creek Releaf events on our Facebook page by clicking here.

Watch a video from Creek ReLeaf 2011

Volunteers – The Key to Our Success

Our volunteers come from all walks of life and range in age from young students to senior citizens. Their ranks include business men and women, high school and college students, families, boy scouts and environmental organizations. No specific skills are needed to participate – only the desire to improve our environment. Volunteers plant and stake the new trees, install a tree tube, tie trees to stakes, install weed mats, and help us insure the right tree is planted in the right spot at the planting site. More experienced volunteers help guide newer volunteers and answer questions. Volunteer groups also help us maintain our trees once they are planted to insure a healthy forest results.

Why Our Work is Important

By reforesting areas adjacent to our stream network we are able to reduce both the volume of runoff and the amount of pollution and sediment that enters our stream network. Specifically, trees reduce erosion by stabilizing the soil and encouraging rainfall to infiltrate the water table – thereby reducing runoff and slowing the velocity of rainfall. Moreover, trees provide much needed shade to the stream channel itself which reduces the water temperature during the summer, allowing temperature–sensitive aquatic organisms to flourish. Ultimately trees greatly improve both the health of the streams and the water quality in our streams, lakes and drinking water supplies. This in turn makes for a healthy stream habitat capable of supporting diverse fish and aquatic organism populations. Sediment is one of the leading pollutants that contributes to the degraded conditions of Mecklenburg County’s streams. Sediment tends to smother the habitat of aquatic insects, which are the food source for many species of fish. Furthermore, many types of pollution, such as toxic metals, nutrients and bacteria, travel downstream bound to sediment particles that are ultimately deposited in our drinking water supply. The Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) initiative established buffer zones along creeks in Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and the six Towns. No construction or development is allowed in the buffer zones. The SWIM buffer ordinance was adopted by the Charlotte City Council and by the Mecklenburg County Board of County Commissioners in 1998. The six Towns adopted SWIM ordinances in 1999 and 2000. These ordinances have proven to be very effective at protecting stream buffers from new development. However, areas that were developed prior to the implementation of the ordinances were not protected. Many of these previously developed areas included construction, clearing, and clearing directly adjacent to the creeks. Historically, the floodplains of our creeks were cleared and utilized for agricultural uses because of the fertile nature of the soils and the presence of water. Many of these historical farm fields have yet to re–establish themselves as forests because of presence of invasive plant species out–competing the native vegetation. The Creek ReLeaf Program identifies these areas and helps mother nature by planting native trees and ensuring they grow. As stated earlier, trees and their root systems help to stabilize stream banks and floodplain areas preventing sediment from entering the stream network. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”