A Dutch arborist who loves Route 66 aims to help trees grow in the tainted soil of Galena, Kansas, and other Route 66 towns with a method that helps vegetation thrive in arid climates or poisoned soils, according to an article in the Joplin Globe.
It’s difficult for trees to grow in Galena and other areas around southeast Kansas and far northeastern Oklahoma because lead-mining operations wrecked the soils. One only has to venture to the enormous chat piles in the ghost town of Picher, Oklahoma, and note few trees — or even weeds — grow there.
But Pieter Hoff says he’s created a way, with the Groasis Waterboxx, for trees to grow in dry or tainted soils by developing a way to thrust their down roots vertically instead of horizontally.
He said oxygen in the soil and humidity are much more important to tree growth than soaking it with water. Additionally, his method involves cutting off horizontal tap roots at the place where they bend and planting bare-rooted trees with a straight tap root. He also cuts off any limbs except the top of a sapling.
He also invented a container designed to create a humid environment for tree root growth. He sold his bulb business in order to devote himself to the work of developing his planting and reforestation program.
He also encourages volunteers to plant trees through a movement he calls the “Green Musketeers.”
“Now my dream is to join with people and reforest the earth because we have done great damage,” he said.
This week, Hoff trained people in Galena and the other Route 66 towns of Joplin, Carthage and Carterville, Missouri, to plant the trees with this method.
Residents see the tree-plantings as a way to restore Route 66 to the appearance it had many decades ago.
“About a year ago I bought a postcard, an old, old postcard of Galena and Route 66, and it was this section of the road and it was full of trees,” Galena Mayor Dale Oglesby said. “It all kind of came together to form this initiative of an ongoing ‘Green Route 66’ initiative. Ultimately we would like to see our bridges and railing restored so this would look like it did back in the 1940s and 1950s.” […]
Oglesby said the Galena project will start by planting 100 trees with the Galena Boy Scouts and other volunteers. The containers, which mimic plant nursery conditions, cost about $19 each and can be reused about 10 times. Each one can start up to three trees.
Tuttle said the Joplin CVB bought 150 containers. Fifty of those will be used to start trees in a new passive park the city plans to build at 26th Street and McClelland Boulevard. The containers can be reused within a few minutes after the saplings get established and start branching out, Hoff said.
As for Hoff, he was motivated to do something after a Route 66 trip:
“As a young boy, I got a dream to visit the United States and Route 66, because at that age there was a famous song of The Rolling Stones, ‘Route 66,’ and every young person was dreaming about visiting America, the land of dreams,” Pieter Hoff said. He did realize that dream, touring the U.S. and Route 66 years ago, where he saw mile after mile of barren land along some stretches of the historic route.
The implications for Hoff’s method are enormous. Not only can Route 66 communities eventually restore vegetation — such as windbreaks planted during the Great Depression — that was destroyed, but many other places worldwide might be able to set up vegetation in areas that were thought as impossible.
(Image of a tree-planting courtesy of Patrick Tuttle, Joplin Convention and Visitors Bureau)