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Why We Need Trees More Than Ever.

March 25, 2020

If you’re reading this, you’ve most likely been stuck in your home for over a week now, you’re attempting to work if you are fortunate to still be employed, or you are doing your best to ride out this difficult and trying situation. WE ARE WITH YOU!

While we’re relying on the internet to stay connected during this difficult time, trees are out there surfing the ‘Wood-Wide Web’ to stay connected. Joking aside, a large body of scientific evidence suggests that just like us, trees communicate with each other, using distress signals to warn against disease, drought, and insect attacks. Maybe that’s why when we are amongst the trees we don’t feel so alone. 

Not in recent history has there been a more evident truth than human kind’s need for a connection with nature. With so many limitations on how we can participate in society at the moment, no one has canceled nature. People are finding relief and peace amongst the trees that no amount of Netflix can compete with. And aren’t we so lucky that spring is here amidst these difficult times? The trees are budding and it reminds us that nature continues, and in many cases, comes back stronger than before…

Nashville Needs Trees

Trees were important to Nashville before, and you better believe they are important now. With the winter planting season at an end, we get to reflect on all the trees that have been planted by hundreds of amazing volunteers in support of the Root Nashville campaign. The campaign has just reached its 10,000 trees planted milestone, on track to meet the goal of planting 500,000 trees by 2050! 

In the last decade, Nashville has lost a significant percentage of its tree canopy. That’s fewer trees that filter our air, provide shade and temperature regulation, and slow and store stormwater. We knew that for a city with a growing population and many vulnerable citizens, the public and private sectors had to unite for this to change.  

Root Nashville is focused on improving air quality, public health, and water quality in the areas that need it most. The figures show the isolated priority areas that the campaign will address first.

The Cumberland River Compact became the trusted partner to lead this effort, in partnership with the City of Nashville, under the leadership of Mayor John Cooper.

Trees are Public Infrastructure!

“Under an Executive Order signed by my administration, Metro defines urban trees as essential public infrastructure – just like our power lines, our water, and sewer pipes, and our roads,” said Mayor John Cooper. “In one year, an acre of mature trees absorbs the same amount of carbon a car would emit while driving 26,000 miles. This is important as Nashville aims to reduce our carbon pollution by 70 percent by 2050. Root Nashville’s planting goal is based on what we must do to both grow and preserve a healthy canopy across the county. While 500,000 trees is a heavy lift, to have already put 10,000 new trees in the ground makes me confident that – if we all work together to support the campaign – we can do it.”

Over 100 trees were planted along Davidson St. along the Cumberland River as part of a larger Green Streets project.

The beauty of the Root Nashville campaign is that the whole city does work together. All 1”-caliper trees (trees with a trunk at least 1” in diameter, usually at least eight feet tall already) planted in Davidson County count towards the citywide goal, no matter who plants them! 

Metro Water Services also views trees as essential public infrastructure and leads planting efforts on public lands, including properties bought out through FEMA that are in floodplains. Recently, Metro Water coordinated the planting of 175 trees along the greenway in Mullins Park in northwest Nashville with a total of 2,723 trees planted on behalf of the campaign thus far.

This planting milestone of over 10,000 trees is a huge step for the campaign. These trees will provide benefits to Nashville for many years to come. At Metro Water, we are proud of the work that’s been accomplished so far and are excited about the future ahead,” says Rebecca Dohn, low-impact development coordinator at Metro Water Services

A City-Wide Partnership Around Trees

Nonprofit partners like the Nashville Tree Foundation, Hands on Nashville, The Nature Conservancy, and Nashville Health have been dedicated supporters of the campaign and serve as advisors to the campaign’s mission. 

“As a close partner and member of the Root Nashville Advisory Board, the Nashville Tree Foundation honors the Root Nashville campaign in celebrating the 10,000 trees planted milestone,” says Andrew Bell, executive director of the Nashville Tree Foundation. “This would not have been possible without the long hours of planning by Root Nashville and its partners, the hard work of countless volunteers, and the generosity of campaign supporters; to each and every one of you, we say thank you! Congratulations on a tree-mendous accomplishment!”

Nashville Tree Foundation Planting

“Nashville is blessed by not one but many nonprofit organizations focused on creating a more livable city by creating and preserving a healthy and vibrant urban tree canopy. We are happy to be one of those organizations helping dig into the challenges we face,” said Jim Gregory, co-founder and chair of the Nashville Tree Conservation Corps. “Nashville citizens now more than ever are understanding the value of trees in their community, how to take care of them, how to plan for them, and what we have to lose if we don’t systemically protect what we have.”

Jim Gregory. Photo: East Nashvillian

See what our partner tree groups are up to: 

Thank You, Volunteers

Imagine that it’s an early Saturday morning in the middle of winter. What would motivate you to wake up and get outside? For hundreds of amazing Nashvillians, it’s tree planting. Getting to know our energetic and optimistic volunteers has been nothing short of inspiring. Volunteers not only make our work possible but also make it FUN. We salute your dedication to a stronger and greener community.

Hear from some of our volunteers in their own words:

  • Part of my own Dad’s legacy that he passed on to me, and that I have successfully passed on to my sons is a love for Nature and all things green. The red oak Daniel planted in my front yard a few years ago for Father’s Day is flourishing. I always think of my Dad when I’m caring for trees, and my hope is that when I am gone my sons will think of me in the same way. Trees are a durable memorial to those who plant them. We had a great time together that Saturday, and it was our pleasure here at PSC to help with parking, as many took advantage.” – Joe Bateman of PSC Metals
  • We are so happy there are organizations like Cumberland River Compact & Root Nashville that are helping plant trees in Nashville & protect our waterways. This is very important work, especially with all the new development that is tearing down so many trees & laying down so much concrete which leads to increased flooding. We enjoyed being a part of the process and hope to help out again soon!” – Jody and Travis Camp
  • Thank you for the opportunity to serve your great vision of planting 500,000 trees in Nashville. We really appreciate your enthusiasm and your friendship. We look forward to many more years of planting trees with you.” – the Ittycheriah family

In the fall, keep an eye on the Cumberland River Compact events calendar to sign up for future volunteer events.

In it For the Long Haul

Planting 500,000 trees by 2050 is a big, bold goal, but the city of Nashville is well on its way. We ALL want to see a greener, healthier Nashville and with the continued efforts of the Root Nashville campaign and support from partners, donors, and volunteers, we know we will get there. 

Just two days before the devastating tornado hit Middle Tennessee, volunteers planted over 100 trees on Davidson St. along the Cumberland River with Nashville SC and MLS Works. In the devastating days following the tornado, we were surprised and delighted to find that the trees remained intact. We move forward, with more determination than ever, towards a healthier more resilient community that exhibits the livability that so many move here for. 

The staff of the Cumberland River Compact works diligently to coordinate planting sites, volunteer events, procure trees, and even care for the trees after they have been planted through our Tree Care program. 

Meg – tree hugger extraordinaire and Root Nashville campaign manager with the Cumberland River Compact
From left – Chandler, Gray, and Dylan with the Cumberland River Compact

“In uncertain times, Nashvillians can take solace and find comfort in spending time outdoors and in nature. Trees make this time more comfortable and pleasant, in addition to the many other benefits they provide. We look back at what we’ve achieved with pride and gratitude, and we are bolstered to take our work to greater heights,” said Mekayle Houghton, executive director of the Cumberland River Compact. “Our team is already looking forward to the next planting season and exciting new programs.”


If you are able and would like to support the continued work of the Cumberland River Compact, we would appreciate your donation