It’s Saturday, a week ago in Sim Scott Park, and five kids are arguing about who gets the shovel next.
How often does this happen?
We are piling dirt in a hole containing a 7-foot-tall willow oak that someday will shade the picnic pavilion on the west side of the park.
With another group of kids, Doris Ebner of the Garden Club Council is planting a Shumard oak at the edge of the walking track. Over by the basketball courts Tympel Harrison of the Mississippi Forestry Commission, is guiding another squad of tree planters.
The kids, ages 8 to 18, are participants in Edward and Barbara Yeates’ Father’s Child Ministry. They have just heard a 30-minute devotional from Edward filled with Biblical references to trees and growing things (From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is chock full of trees), and now they are unleashing their seemingly boundless energy improving this treeless landscape.
In less than an hour the kids have planted nine oaks.
They have now shifted their attention to the playground.
How did this happen?
It was made possible by the generosity of a disparate group of people, all of whom embrace the idea of kids interacting with nature.
Bob Brzuszek of the department of landscape architecture at MSU and Misty Booth of the Mississippi Forestry Commission helped with tree and site selection.
Greg Lewis at Columbus Parks and Rec, along with his groundskeeping crew led by Humphries Kelly, were supportive and helped prepare the site.
Debbie Lawrence of Bloomers Nursery in Caledonia donated the trees and mulch.
John Stewart, whose primary business is digging graves for local funeral homes and who lives on Northside near the park, dug the holes for the trees.
As he finished someone asked Stewart if it was okay if we settled up with him later in the day.
“You don’t owe me anything,” Stewart said from atop his trackhoe. “This is for the community.”
The impetus for this project came from an article in the winter issue of a quarterly magazine published by The Nature Conservancy.
Using satellite imaging, NC scientists concluded from a survey of almost 6,000 communities that low-income neighborhoods have fewer trees and are hotter in the summertime.
It doesn’t take satellite imaging to see this is the case in Columbus or, for that matter, most any town anywhere.
More affluent neighborhoods with mature trees enjoy shadier streets and thus cooler houses, better drainage, enhanced real estate values, healthier air. Plus trees are beautiful.
Studies show a multitude of social benefits attributed to trees: lower crime, better grades, even faster recovery times for patients in hospital rooms with a tree view.
How then to get more trees planted in our under-served neighborhoods?
If that group of kids at Sim Scott last Saturday could be pressed into service every weekend, it would be done in no time. Just remember to bring enough shovels.
Birney Imes (email@example.com) is the former publisher of The Dispatch.
Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.