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Trees for Tomorrow focuses on planting native species

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Politics aren’t a part of an effort to get Waccamaw Neck residents to plant native trees, organizers say.

Although some of those who have joined the effort spoke on behalf of the failed attempt to restore zoning protection for large live oak trees at occupied single-family homes, they said they are willing to put politics aside in order to focus on what they hope will be a community service project.

Trees for Tomorrow is the name they settled on at a weekend meeting. It isn’t so much an organization as a cause, the dozen organizers agreed.

“The main idea would be to get trees in the ground and send a message to people who don’t think this is an issue,” said Rick Baumann, the owner of Murrells Inlet Seafood, who started the effort.

Georgetown County Council’s decision this month to kill an amendment to the zoning ordinance that would have protected live oaks with trunks 30 inches in diameter or greater didn’t surprise Baumann, who tried to get tougher tree protections included in the county’s stormwater management ordinance as part of a council-appointed study committee several years ago. But rather than lobby council to change course, he said he wants to raise awareness for native trees.

“If we just do the right thing,” he said, council may end up doing the same.

“Start with a community project,” said Chip Smith, the inlet resident who started the Spring Tide cleanup 21 years ago. “It doesn’t matter what your reason is. It makes sense to plant indigenous trees.”

True Blue Nursery has agreed to sell native trees at a 20 percent discount, and the Trees for Tomorrow organizers are collecting coupons from local businesses that will be offered to everyone who buys a tree. Baumann hopes that enough businesses will sign on that the value of the coupon package will offset the cost of the trees.

The campaign will run from Feb. 15 to April 15.

Todd Stephenson, owner of Total Tree Care, and Bob Schuhmacher, a retired botanist, are working on a shortlist of native trees to recommend. That will help the nursery ensure availability, said Lori Hensley, who owns True Blue with her husband, Brett.

Not everyone who supports the concept will be able to plant a tree, said Bill Renault, a Tradition Club resident who spoke for the live oak protection on behalf of the Waccamaw Neck Council of Property Owners Associations. “I don’t have room to plant anything,” he said, noting that the deed restrictions in the community require 40 percent of the yards to be grassed.

Baumann suggested some people may be able to plant trees in public spaces if they can’t plant them at home. The key is educating people about the importance of native species, both to maintain the character of the area and because they are best suited to the climate.

With development taking place on increasingly smaller lots, there often isn’t room in some neighborhoods for shade trees so they end up with palmettos, he said.

“It sounds like there’s definitely strong motivation at the community level,” said Sean Barry, spokesman for the Arbor Day Foundation in Lincoln., Neb.

Trees for Tomorrow organizers plan to contact the foundation for ideas. Barry said they’re already on the right track.

“It really does build community,” he said. “It’s a great way to come together and make improvements.”

The foundation offers resources to help people plan what to plant and where to plant it. “We encourage people to do their homework,” Barry said.

People who start out planting trees for aesthetic reasons often find there are are other benefits, he said.

“It can have a tangible pocketbook benefit,” Barry said, such as cutting down on energy costs.

Ken Kreikemeier, a Willbrook Plantation resident who attended the Trees for Tomorrow meeting, said the Pawleys Island Lions Club, of which he is a member, has a goal of planting 50 trees this year. It’s part of an initiative by Lions Clubs International to plant a million trees around the world.

“This isn’t the only group interested in planting trees,” Kreikemeier said.

February is an ideal time for planting, Schuhmacher said, though late in the season. Organizers said it’s still worth starting the initiative, and plan to expand it next year.

“Even 100 trees. That’s a statement in itself,” Baumann said.

To get involved with the group, call Baumann, 651-9309, or e-mail him at rick@murrellsinletseafood.net.

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