STAMFORD, Conn. (March 1, 2022) – Keep America Beautiful® is proud to roll out a new initiative, KAB’s Affiliate of the Month. Through website and social media posts each month, we look forward to featuring the great work being done in our network of 700 certified affiliates.
Our first Affiliate of the Month is Keep Santa Fe Beautiful. Over the next months, we are recognizing the affiliates that received awards from Keep America Beautiful in 2020. Keep Santa Fe Beautiful received an Innovation Award for their work in adding a Santa Fe city sign to the entrance of America’s second oldest city.
Q&A with Keep Santa Fe Executive Director, Carol Branch:
How long have you been the executive director of Keep Santa Fe Beautiful?
3 years. I served on the Keep Santa Fe Beautiful Board of Directors a few years prior to taking the position as Executive Director.
When did your passion for taking care of the environment begin?
I come from a family of farmers and ranchers, so I grew up working the land with erosion control projects, eradicating invasive plants, water conservation. I have always been involved in volunteer efforts to improve our environment which included picking up litter.
Tell us about your staff at Keep Santa Fe Beautiful.
As the environmental services program manager, I employ staff that picks up recyclables, special trash collections, and we also remove graffiti. For KSFB, in particular, there are 2 of us that oversee the non-profit KSFB and act as administrative staff for Environmental Services. We also share a communications coordinator who helps us with our website and getting our news releases out.
You received a Keep America Beautiful 2020 Innovation award. Tell us about that particular project.
This project was to install Santa Fe’s first entry way sign. We live in one of the most beautiful cities and we are the 2nd oldest city in the US. Yet, we have never had a sign welcoming you to our historic city. We fought long and hard and received grant funding to come up with 3 conceptual designs. We invited dignitaries, elected officials, businesspeople, and tribal council to give feedback. We eventually came up with 2 entry sign designs and had citizens and officials vote on the winning design. We then applied for grant funding to erect the sign in 2020, which was very difficult to do during a pandemic. But we are so proud that we achieved our goal. We have since installed solar lighting to light up the sign at night, and our next phase will be to landscape or really, rockscape, the entire area around the sign to complete the beautification project.
Besides that project, what are some other things you and your staff and volunteers have done that you’re exceptionally proud of?
1. My pride and joy is our partnership with a local charter high school. Part of their curriculum is performing community service. My passion is to raise up the next generation of land stewards. I teach a class called Public Lands. 7 Fridays a semester, we do various projects throughout the city, including installing rain gardens, doing anti-graffiti projects, sprucing up parks, replacing dead trees, and whatever we can do to help teach our students how to improve their environment. We work primarily in parks, trails, and open spaces.
2. We also partner with the public schools. Every elementary school in Santa Fe participates in our 2 annual cleanups. Before the pandemic, we would go to many schools and teach about our recycling program and do demonstrations on how to recycle right.
3. Adopt a Median Program – Our non-profit runs this program which gives local businesses an opportunity to give back to our city by landscaping and maintaining medians throughout the city. To keep the program sustainable, we have a limit of 50 in the program and manage the most beautiful medians in our city.
What’s 2022 looking like? What are you working on?
In accordance with Santa Fe’s sustainable 25-year plan, we are working hard to create programs that help our environment and, in particular, with the global warming problem and the bee die-off problem.
- Growing a Tree Canopy in Santa Fe: On Arbor Day 2022, we will kick off a pilot program called the TreeSmart Giveaway Pilot Program. We received the funding from the NM Tourism Department for this project. We will be giving away 100 trees to 25 homeowners in 4 neighborhoods that are in need of trees to take part in this tree smart pilot program. We did extensive research on what trees we believe will thrive best in our climate and have a variety they will choose from. We will give them a state-of-the-art rain barrel and ask participants to capture storm water with their rain barrel to water their tree. Our objective is to use strictly storm water to water the tree. With help from our partners in our city’s Water Conservation Department, we will collect data for 2 to 3 years. We plan on giving away the right tree for the right space with a rain barrel every year. Our hope is the TreeSmart Giveaway Program will become one of KSFB’s signature programs.
- Save The Bees – Planting a Pollinator Garden: We received grant funding through the NM Tourism Department to install a pollinator garden which will include a new irrigation system, 5 trees and 32 pollinator plants, and an interpretive sign – explaining to the public what a pollinator garden is. We also got funding to erect a bee sculpture made of recycled materials. With our students and other volunteers, we will prepare the soil and plant in late April and early May and also seed around the plants with natural grasses. In the fall, we will have our ribbon-cutting ceremony. We will invite the press, dignitaries, and all citizens to celebrate our first pollinator garden.
Keep America Beautiful thanks Keep Santa Fe Beautiful for their continuous hard work. We’re proud to have the staff and volunteers of Keep Santa Fe Beautiful in the KAB family.
See the interview with Carol Branch here:
Contact: Abby Turpin, Director of Communications
Keep America Beautiful®