THE SAVANNAH TREE FOUNDATION wants you. “We’re looking for people’s ideas about places that need trees,” Adrienn Mendonca, the foundation’s communications director, says.
Mendonca is looking for anyone who wants to improve community-owned spaces through planting trees. “Some of the tree canopy needs to be replaced,” she says. “There might be a place that needs more greenery. We really want to get the word out.”
The areas being sought should be public, governmental or non-profit land in Savannah and Chatham County. The City of Savannah already has its own tree specialists, so the foundation is looking for spots outside the city as well as inside. “The city has done such a good job, it’s hard to find places in Savannah that need trees,” Mendonca says.
The issue of planting trees has become more crucial. “It’s evident now more than ever that trees are an important part of the environment,” Mendonca says. “They help sequester carbon. With global warming, we need to take better care of our trees.”
One of the main causes of global warming is carbon emissions. Trees take in carbon, and release oxygen. “Every time you plant a tree, you help the environment deal with toxic waste,” Mendonca says.
Trees also are traffic-calming influences, Mendonca says. They encourage drivers to slow down and enjoy the scenery.
They also help absorb storm water. Areas that tend to flood can benefit from canopy trees.
When trees are properly placed, they can help with cooling and heating bills. They also provide shelter for local and migratory birds and other wildlife.
Preliminary research has indicated that students in grades K-8 actually had a higher passing rate on state exams when there was a larger percentage of tree cover at their schools. “Children learn better in healthier environments, and trees are part of that equation,” Mendonca says.
When Mendonca was in college, she often stopped in Savannah. “It was halfway home from Chapel Hill,” she says.
“I would cruise around town and admire the live oak canopies,” Mendonca says. “I love this city. It’s so beautiful, which is one of the reasons why people relocate here.”
Mendonca took a job with the Savannah Tree Foundation, an organization that works to protect those very trees she once admired. While most of us take trees for granted, they do require protection and care to thrive.
“Natural attrition is a problem,” Mendonca says. “Like people, trees get old and die. Trees that aren’t cared for tend to die sooner.”
The Savannah Tree Foundation plants about 200 trees every year. At times, the public is asked to help plant them.
Usually, at least 50 trees are planted at a site. “But even if less than 20 trees are needed in an area, we’ll take it under consideration,” Mendonca says. “We’ll look at the areas where trees are needed and evaluate them on an individual basis.”
Dale Thorpe, a past president of the foundation, remains an enthusiastic volunteer.
“We do community volunteer tree plantings to teach people how to plant trees,” she says. “People enjoy it. They love to come out and help us plant trees. It’s a good way to reforest public lands.”
Savannah is famous for its urban forest. “We have an excellent city parks and trees program, but the county and other municipal areas do not,” Thorpe says. “The city has excellent crews that continually plant and maintain trees. That started in the late 1800s.
“The county and the municipalities haven’t built programs,” she says. “That’s where we’re focusing our efforts.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has set aside land in Chatham County that is prone to flooding. No one can live on those lands, and they can’t be developed, so many are just bare, empty lots.
“They must not be used for anything but flood control,” Thorpe says. “Trees enhance their ability to do this.
“We’ve put a lot of trees on FEMA properties,” Thorpe says. “It changes them from grassy lots to eventually nice forested areas. We’ve done several of those, and it entirely changes the character of an empty lot.”
Development has taken a toll on Chatham County’s trees. “On the Isle of Hope there are absolutely lovely trees, but when you take out the support system of other trees for housing, the trees that are left need attention,” Thorpe says.
“Someone will see a tree and think, ‘That’s a cool place to park,’ and the tree is impacted even more,” she says. “Care must be given to try to retain trees.”
Have a suggestion for the Savannah Tree Foundation? Submissions should be sent to the attention of Patrick Grant, project director, via mail, e-mail, fax or phone. Mail submissions to: The Savannah Tree Foundation, 3025 Bull St., Savannah, 31405, or submit ideas by calling 233-8733, faxing them to 233-8799 or e-mailing them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your name, phone number, e-mail and mailing address, as exact a location as possible and the number of trees needed at the site. Digital photos of proposed sites are a plus.