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Planting the future

Savannah Tree Foundation reclaims vacant lots with crape myrtles

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This weekend, in an ironic turn of progress, they unpaved paradise and took out a parking lot.

A group of volunteers spent two days digging, mulching and planting on Savannah's southside, where city crews bulldozed and hauled away a 330-square foot slab of asphalt along Wilshire Blvd. last month. Now 110 crape myrtles stand proudly in the ground that was once covered by concrete.

Under the direction of the Savannah Tree Foundation, a cavalry that included hundreds of ordinary citizens, Girl Scouts and the entire roster of the AASU baseball team came to help with the effort. According to STF's Project Coordinator KC Allan, many families had heard of the effort from the STF booth at Food Day on Oct. 26, but no one was sure how many would put in an appearance.

"You never know whether any volunteers will actually show up," says Allan. "That's the nature of these events — you don't expect RSVPs."

These vacant lots had been deemed uninhabitable by FEMA, and the city and STF have partnered to beautify these "disaster sites." District 6 Alderman Tony Thomas and Chatham County Commissioner Lori Brady were there to lend support, though rainfall the night before had saturated the ground. Dedicated STF member Reed Engle had to wrangle a floating rootball with a mallet and wooden stakes.

"Without Reed's more than 90 hours of donated service and astonishing breadth of volunteerism, none of this would have been possible," says STF Executive Director Karen Jenkins.

STF counts as part of its mission to promote "an awareness of trees as vital environmental resources and an important part of our cultural heritage." Sounds like Savannah is getting the message.

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