We take trees for granted. That’s a mistake.
These patient and immobile organisms quietly have a global impact. They give food. They provide shade. They provide beauty. They provide oxygen. Without them, we cannot exist.
Ironically, as human populations flock to urban environments, they have a nasty habit of removing trees to make way for asphalt covered roads, concrete sidewalks, and grassy lawns. Bereft of trees, the urban environment heats up (a phenomenon known as an urban heat island), the air quality deteriorates, and the aesthetics suffer.
Many large cities have become all too aware of this issue and have implemented tree planting initiatives to help reverse this trend of urban deforestation. Usually, this involves planting trees in community spaces like parks, tree lanes, and along roadsides. In Louisville Kentucky, the state’s largest city, an organization called Louisville Grows, much like the city itself, is doing things a little differently.
Louisville Grows wants to “grow a just and sustainable community.” Realizing that a connection with nature, even in the concrete confines of a large city, is the root of a healthy and thriving community, they are accomplishing their mission through urban agriculture, urban forestry, and environmental education.
Among their arsenal of tools are (take a deep breath) ten community gardens, four public orchards, the Hope Farm Refugee Training Farm and CSA, the Love Louisville Trees urban reforestation initiative, Healthy House wellness education and arts programming, Citizen Forester and Citizen Gardener volunteer training programs, the Urban Growers Series hands-on gardening education program, and Seeds and Starts plant sales. And breath.
Trees can be expensive. Considering all they do (see above), they are a value that is well worth the cost. However, not everyone can afford them. Furthermore, not everyone has the resources to plant them. The folks that organize the Love Louisville Trees program have found a solution. After locating neighborhoods that have a depleted tree canopy, they canvas the area, going door-to-door looking for willing “treecipients.” If someone wants a tree on their property, they’ll provide the tree, the planting labor, and education on how to care for it. The treecipient gets shade, beauty, and likely a bit of education in the process. The neighborhood, community, and city are all made better, one tree at a time.
Aware of the severe thunderstorm warnings in the area, and with an eye toward the ever-darkening skies, we spent a Tuesday afternoon with the Love Louisville Trees initiative, and the ever-smiling faces of their team. On a rare warm day, we helped unload and group over 100 trees that were to be planted the coming weekend. These will be the latest additions to the nearly 2,000 trees Louisville Grows has added to the urban landscape over the past few years. Already weighing between 150 and 200 pounds, and standing anywhere from 6 to 12 feet tall, these trees will play an integral part in improving a city that more people are calling home every day. As Louisville continues to grow, the trees will too, and the people and plants will have an intertwined existence. Each reliant on the other. Each making the other better. Louisville grows indeed.