(HARRISBURG, PA)—The Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership awarded its first Mira Lloyd Dock Partnership Diversity Awards to Rafiyqa Muhammad of Harrisburg and Kristen Thomas of Lancaster on Friday. The women were recognized for their conservation and urban beautification work in under-represented portions of their communities.
“This award was created to honor the spirit of Mira Lloyd Dock, who pursued urban beautification and forest conservation at a time when women or people of color were not welcomed at the decision table,” said Brenda Sieglitz, Manager of the partnership, coordinated by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF).
“Rafiyqa and Kristen embody that spirit in their work in their respective cities of Harrisburg and Lancaster through their community outreach, engaging with under-represented communities, and bringing resources to residents who otherwise may not have access to nature,” Sieglitz added.
The Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership presented the awards to Muhammad and Thomas during the Pennsylvania Forestry Association’s (PFA) virtual annual meeting on Friday.
The PFA also presented its Mira Lloyd Dock Outstanding Woman Conservationist Award to Sally Zaino during that meeting.
The Keystone partnership presented Muhammad, Thomas, and Zaino with $5,000 worth of trees and supplies each, to help advance their efforts.
Muhammad plans to use the prize to provide trees for a proposed Memorial Native Tree garden to honor those who lost their lives in the City of Harrisburg to violence and COVID-19 and to educate about the value of trees.
“We did a survey a few years ago about trees and it came back “Take ‘em all out,’ because they are damaging property,” Muhammad said. “So now we have a lot of people who hate them. That’s because they are not educated about trees, what trees are and how they impact our community.”
Muhammad hopes the communities she serves and is part of, sees trees differently as a result of the memorial. “If people can have that attachment and then we give them educational background about trees, I have a feeling that they will be more able to take care of the trees and make sure they grow, because now you have a personal attachment,” she said. “We as a community have to take care of trees and be involved in this as well.”
Muhammad was nominated by Molly Cheatum, CBF’s Restoration Manager in Pennsylvania.
“Rafiyqa considers the distressed neighborhoods of Alison Hill, Berry Hill, Camp Curtin to be home and has worked hard to encourage residents to plant urban gardens, trees, and keep the City of Harrisburg clean,” Molly Cheatum said.
“In 2018, she educated 250 people on invasive species, trees, and rain gardens. The rain gardens are being cared for and maintained by the community,” Cheatum added. “Rafiyqa is certified in permaculture and has been growing food for conservation and consumption for over 15 years. The community has asked her to talk about ways to grow food alongside rain gardens.”
Kirsten Thomas was nominated by Shea Zwerver, Policy Specialist for the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and Karl Graybill, Environmental Planner for the City of Lancaster. She is being recognized for her work with under-represented residents in the City of Lancaster and for establishing Lancaster Tree Tenders.
“Since 2016, Kristen has been leading and organizing Arbor Day, and street tree and riparian buffer planting events in the City of Lancaster,” Karl Graybill said. “Many of these events are held in environmental justice neighborhoods and involve community residents in planting activities.”
“Kristen identified neighborhoods within Lancaster City that were lacking in tree canopy and organized a tree planting over Earth Day 2019 at a low-income, predominantly Latinx housing development,” Shea Zwerver said. “She worked diligently to connect with the property owners and tenants to ensure all parties were supportive of a tree planting. She then recruited volunteers from beyond Lancaster Tree Tenders; individuals from state agencies, local non-profits, and private industry all came out to help tenants plant trees.”
For Thomas, the Dock award will provide trees to continue her work with the diverse residents of Lancaster and to increase the tree canopy there.
“It’s impressive what Mira Lloyd Dock did, so it’s humbling to be recognized with somebody of that caliber,” Thomas said.
“There really wasn’t a true tree focus in the City of Lancaster, even though there’s always been a tree program, so we decided that Tree Tenders could be formed,” Thomas added. It’s kind of fun to see something come out of nothing and really make a difference to the city’s urban canopy.
“It’s one thing doing plantings in certain areas but really getting people involved in those areas is the next step we need to work on as a group,” Thomas added.
Mira Lloyd Dock is recognized as the first Pennsylvania woman to lead the way in forest conservation. She was an advocate for Penn’s Woods and in 1901 was appointed to the State Forest Reservation Commission by Pennsylvania Governor William Stone. The Commission’s goal was to purchase tens of thousands of acres of clear-cut forest that were abandoned by logging companies.
Dock teamed up with Harrisburg businessman J. Horace McFarland on a Harrisburg plan that built 900 acres of new city parks, public lakes, athletic fields, playgrounds, and sewage control that won national attention. It also included a water-treatment plant and sewer lines.
Dock lectured and taught at the new State Forestry Academy in Mont Alto, which she helped found. She used her own textbook, which discussed all trees that grew in Pennsylvania and where they flourished.
Dock was also part of the movement led by McFarland, to preserve Niagara Falls.
CBF launched the Keystone partnership in 2018, focused on Pennsylvania’s Clean Water Blueprint goal of planting 95,000 acres of forested buffers by the end of 2025.
Trees are among the most cost-effective tools for cleaning and protecting waterways by filtering and absorbing polluted runoff, stabilizing streambanks, and improving soil quality. Placed in parks, municipal properties and other urban and suburban settings, trees absorb and clean stormwater, reduce flooding, and help restore abandoned mine land.
Urban trees provide cooling shade and windbreaks that reduce energy costs in all seasons, provide noise buffers for quieter neighborhoods, and reduce air pollution that improves air quality. Studies have also shown that trees make city-dwellers happier, healthier, and more connected to their communities.
The partnership is a collaborative effort of 149 partner groups representing national, regional, state, and local agencies, conservation organizations, watershed groups, conservancies, outdoors enthusiasts, businesses, and individuals.
Since 2018, cumulative efforts by CBF, the partnership, and others across Pennsylvania have planted roughly 1.74 million trees.
The learn more about the Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership, visit TenMillionTrees.org.
For photo, contact B.J. Small, PA Media and Communications Coordinator, BSmall@cbf.org