(SAVANNAH) The effort to keep Savannah and Chatham county as a whole, under a canopy of green, is a constant effort. It turns out to be a balancing act that pits urban development against preserving the trees that seem rooted in the region’s identity and appeal. It takes elbow grease, not hugs to ensure trees thrive after they’ve been planted. That’s why volunteers with the Savannah Tree Foundation recently invested sweat equity in the effort to nurture the trees they’ve set in soil. Nearly two dozen people came together to help some recently planted trees thrive. Those young trees are located along the entrance and exits ramps of the Whitfield Avenue interchange on the Truman Parkway. Karen Jenkins works with the Foundation. “It’s really important to help young trees get established so it’ll grow up to be big trees…um..if you don’t take care of children they grow up with problems. If you don’t take care of trees they can grow up with problems too.” Said Jenkins, who adds this work helps nurture 150 trees planted by the foundation last fall. Chatham County Commissioner, Helen Stone, says the county happily partners with the Foundation in this effort to replace some of the old trees that were cut down as the Truman opened traffic flow to the Southside of Savannah. “I just try to make certain that when we do come in to do a roadway project, such as Whitefield Avenue, that we do maintain some of the character.” Stone said.
That character hangs partially on the boughs reach across roadways. but sometimes even the mightiest of old oaks can’t stand against urban developments. The loss of a live oak that lived more than a century is proof of that conflict, as it was recently cut down after suffering irreparable root damage during an emergency sewer line repair in the 600 block of 37th Street in Savannah. ” It is very sad to me, each tree is unique. Each tree presents it’s own sense of character and to lose a tree like that is very sad.” said Stone. But Jenkins says they work to replace trees lost because every tree won’t reach it’s full life expectancy in a city setting. “It’s hard to have a big tree in an urban environment and that’s why trees on roadsides are so important because that is a good place for trees to exist. There are very few utilities there. Jenkins said.
There is a trio of species that are taking root including Red Cedar, Bald Cypress, and Live Oak trees. “You know everyone associates Savannah and Chatham County with mature live oaks and the beautiful canopy of trees and when you remove that canopy, you end up with heat and asphalt and concrete and you lose the sense of character and our sense of place.” said Jenkins. The Savannah Tree Foundation key program areas are: Community volunteer tree plantings, Tree care & maintenance workshops, Educational presentations & programming about the value & benefits of trees, Public policy work and grassroots advocacy for trees at neighborhood, community, local, state, regional & national levels, and to be stewards of the Candler Oak & other current projects such as developing natural walking trails at Bacon Park Forest for the City of Savannah and installing landscaping projects for Chatham County.