Local homeowners asked to plant salt-tolerant mangrove seedling

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Sea levels are rising and saltwater intrusion into our drinking water, septic tanks, landscape and agriculture is inevitable.

Pinecrest Gardens-based environmental artist and University of Miami Professor of Practice Xavier Cortada wants residents to do something about it. In his new, socially charged “Plan(T)” project, Cortada is embarking on a public campaign to urge every resident across Miami-Dade County to plant a saltwater-tolerant mangrove seedling and white flag in their yard to start preparing for the future of sea level rise.

“We need to start planting for the future,” Cortada said. “Our water’s edge is no longer at the coastline. It’s at your feet and at the aquifer, too. In the decades to come, much of our non-salt tolerant tree canopy will not survive the impacts of storm surge and saltwater intrusion, putting us at risk for significant loss of our green landscape, agriculture and shoreline in the Magic City.”

The Plan(T) endeavor coincides with the launch of Cortada Projects, his series of participatory eco-art projects designed to engage concerned citizens and transform them into problem-solvers on environmental issues. In 2004, Cortada drew pictures of mangrove seedlings for volunteers to use in the creation of his Miami Mangrove Forest Project on the I-95 underpasses in Downtown Miami, Little Havana and Allapattah neighborhoods. That process led to Cortada’s acclaimed Reclamation Project where, in partnership with the Frost Science Museum, the community planted eight acres of mangroves in Biscayne Bay as a way to inspire thousands to rebuild the coastal ecosystem.

Never, however, did the Miami artist imagine that 15 years later, he would be asking his neighbors to plant mangroves on the mainland to help facilitate climate conversations, sequester carbon dioxide, and grow the city’s salt-tolerant native tree canopy.

“We can no longer bury our heads in the sand on this issue,” Cortada said. “I plan to engage my fellow citizens to reframe the way that they think as they participate in this innovative county-wide, urban forestation effort to help safeguard vulnerable areas of our city.”

Working with Miami-Dade Parks & Recreation, Cortada and his team will collect thousands of mangrove propagules from various local parks and will harvest them as seedlings to give them away for free to Miami residents at Pinecrest Gardens’ popular Farmers Market, every Sunday through Jan. 12, 2020, as well as all Miami-Dade Public Libraries on Jan. 11, 2020.

Each resident also will receive a white flag to write their property’s elevation on it and to plant the flag next to the mangrove seedling in their yard. Research shows that mangrove forests are critical natural barriers against floods and storm surges, and play a crucial role in protecting coastal areas from sea level rise.

In the spirit of his “Underwater HOA” project last year, “Plan(T) will encourage community conversations on sea level rise, including neighbors-to-neighbors who see the white flags, students at 25 local schools, and 50 public libraries throughout Miami-Dade County that will display project information, mangrove seedling exhibits and host student guest speakers as part of the public awareness education campaign. The original drawings from Cortada’s 2004 Miami Mangrove Forest art project are on display at the Main Public Library in Downtown Miami through Jan. 18, 2020.

Additionally, residents are invited to the launch of Cortada’s “Plan(T)” art exhibition, featuring a wall of mangrove seedlings in water-filled cups, to be held from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Hibiscus Gallery at Pinecrest Gardens, 11000 Red Rd., on Thursday, Sept. 26. For Art Basel this year, Pinecrest Gardens is proactively planting the city’s first mangrove forest and will serve as the backdrop for a giant mural Cortada is painting to replicate an art piece he created during his Miami Mangrove Forest Project.

Cortada Projects uses the power of art to engage the community in learning about and addressing important ecological concerns. Exhibitions and programming serve as a platform for community conversation and environmental action. To learn more, visit www.cortadaprojects.org.

For more information about Pinecrest Gardens, visit www.pinecrestgardens.org or follow @PinecrestGardens on social media.