Fayette County

Twenty years and 136,000 trees later, Reforest the Bluegrass celebrates

If you drive out to Masterson Station Park these days, as so many dog walkers and soccer parents do every weekend, the first thing you see if a long swath of trees that line a tiny creek that circles three-quarters of the property.

Those trees were planted in 2000 by volunteers of what was then a tiny fledgling program called Reforest the Bluegrass. (The very first tree planting in 1999 was along the Cane Run Creek in Coldstream Park.)

So it was fitting on Saturday that Reforest the Bluegrass’ 20th anniversary should return to Masterson so that an estimated 1,000 volunteers could plant 8,000 trees in a broad swath above the creek.

“This brings the community together to help bring more trees to the Bluegrass,” said Heather WIlson, Lexington’s municipal arborist who oversees Reforest the Bluegrass. Trees, in turn, help quality of life with better air, water and soil.

The idea started with the late Dave Gabbard, who worked in water quality for the city of Lexington. He pushed the idea that more trees were good and more trees in watersheds were even better. People liked the idea of planting trees, along with free lunches and t-shirts, and the tree planting days soon expanded to between 500 and 1,000 participants at each one. Twenty years later more than 15,500 volunteers have planted more than 136,000 trees across 185 acres in Fayette County, including Coldstream, Veterans Park and Hisle Park.

Wilson has started a smaller venture called Branching Out, which will apply the Reforest the Bluegrass model to plant larger trees in 20 smaller spaces. Two planting events scheduled for Sunday, April 14, have been canceled because of heavy rain in the forecast.

Kenitha Proctor’s company Big Bang Customs, has made the T-shirts for Reforest for years, and this year, she said, “I said we have to close the circle.”

Although digging through sod and dirt is a hard job, Proctor loved the experience. “It’s awesome, it really is,” she said, including the tent full of vendors and the live music. “It’s a great community event.”

Members of the business club at Asbury University saw the event advertised on Facebook, so Samantha Hill, Kris-Anne Pardue and Evan Kinniard, decided to drive up.

“We’ve planted eight of the big trees,” Hill said. “It’s fun being able to work together as a team.”

Melinda Spry wanted to bring her daughter, Olive, 7, because she’s already a budding environmentalist.

“I think this really instills those kinds of values in kids,” she said.

Olive agreed. “It helps the environment,” she said. “Because trees help you breathe.”