By Emily Williams
A group of Hall-Kent Elementary School students and teachers gathered outside in the fresh air Nov. 27 to get their hands dirty by planting four trees donated to the school through the Alabama Urban Forestry Association’s Re-Leaf program.
Joining the students was Mayor Scott McBrayer, who helped with the planting. He brought along the city’s Arbor Month Proclamation, officially renewing the city’s pledge to maintain its Tree City USA status, received for the first time this year.
Helping coordinate the event were representatives of the Homewood Environmental Commission, the association, Father Nature Landscapes of Birmingham and Eternal Summer Landscapes.
“It was a great day,” said Julie Price, commission secretary. “Some of these kids had never planted a tree before, so it was a great way to get them involved and help them understand the value of trees.”
“One of the gardeners spoke with the kids and at the end of his speech he said, ‘Are y’all ready to get your hands dirty?’ And the kids just mobbed the trees,” Price added.
A second planting of eight trees was held the following day at Edgewood Elementary, and a similar planting will take place in the spring at Shades Cahaba Elementary. All trees have come to the schools through donations Road-Runner Moving made to the Re-Leaf program.
The plantings at local schools are just one of the ways that the commission has been ramping up its work in the city following the city’s first Tree City USA recognition this past spring.
A big win for the organization was the approval of a new tree ordinance by the city’s Planning Commission in September.
The rules of the tree ordinance city’s previous tree ordinance were difficult to enforce when it came to private property. With the new ordinance.
Now that the rules are more clear, the commission has been hosting lunch and learn events for local landscapers, tree removal companies, developers and the like to better educate representatives of private companies that work with local trees.
Events Geared Toward Trees
In November, the commission celebrated Arbor Month by hosting events to promote the planting of trees and the preparations for warmer seasons.
The commission put up educational signs highlighting benefits such as improved air quality, lower urban air temperatures, safer walking environments and increased home and business values.
Trees were made available to residents at a reduced price, an incentive to get more trees in residents’ yards.
“When we met with city planners, they told us that 90 percent of Homewood is privately-owned. That makes it hard for us to control what happens to our canopy. So we knew we needed to find ways to help educate the public.”
The commission hosted a Seed Collection Workshop Nov. 3 at Sims Garden, where participants learned how to identify seeds, assess the viability of the seeds, germinate them and plant them. Throughout the fall, the commission has been collecting seeds with help from local scouts and residents.
The Green Skies Over Homewood annual tree planting on Nov. 20 had community volunteers digging, planting and watering about 200 seedlings along the Shades Creek Greenway to replenish the commission’s tree stock.
To maintain Tree City USA status, the city needs to prove that it has a strong community tree ordinance, a tree board or department and an Arbor Day celebration. It also must spend at least $2 per person each year on planting and maintaining the city’s tree canopy.
“When you are standing under the shade of a tree when its hot outside, that tree was planted a long time ago,” Price said. “So, it’s important for people to realize that the trees we plant now will be something that will keep us cool in the future.”
A tree makes a great give, according to Price, so the commission will offer a discount on their trees for the holiday season.