Ah, 36 degrees and a biting wind. What a day to plant trees!
And so it was for James Allen, an economist with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.
“I like to plant trees on any day,” Allen said. “It’s something I believe strongly in.”
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Allen and his wife, Joy, were among hundreds of volunteers who attended Saturday’s annual Reforest the Bluegrass event. By 10 a.m., there were 200 people getting their hands dirty in the Deep Springs Greenway off Bryan Station Road.
“It’s great to see this many come out,” said John Saylor, program manager for resource operations with the city’s Division of Environmental Services. “It’s a testament to how successful this event has been for the city over the last 18 years.”
Saylor has coordinated Reforest for a decade and said Saturday was the coldest day for the event that he could remember.
The saplings were protected overnight so the roots wouldn’t freeze. But the colder temperatures shouldn’t hurt the young trees.
“As long as the ground is not frozen, you can plant year-round,” Saylor said.
Burr oak, swamp white oak, sycamore, walnut, black locust and cedar were among the 7,000 saplings available for planting. The trees help protect streams, reduce the need for mowing, improve air quality and, in those planted Saturday, buffer traffic noise from nearby Interstate 75.
Russell Hoff brought his wife and two grandchildren to the event. He’s planted 31 trees near his home on Lexington’s north side.
“I would just like to leave a better place for our grandchildren and their grandchildren,” Hoff said.
His grandson, Alexander Stark, 10, said when trees mature “they take in bad air and give out good air so the air can be fresh.”
The volunteers worked quickly. In 90 minutes, the swale between I-75 and Anniston Drive was dotted with saplings and black squares of landscape tarp.
“If there weren’t trees here it would just be taken over by honeysuckle, which is not cool,” said Sara Stewart, a UK junior majoring in natural resources. “We’re just trying to reintroduce the native species.”
“We saw the worst that happens when the environment is degraded and that, for me, led to a big shift in my thinking about how we need to take care of the environment,” James Allen said.
“I think a lot of people in our society separate civilization from nature. In reality, we’re all living in the environment. This is our environment. Our homes are in the environment, and we need to take care of it.”