120717 Nonprofits: Group gives away magnolias for planting
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Rick Baumann, who started the program, with magnolia seedlings.

Nonprofits: Group gives away magnolias for planting

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

After hitting its goal of giving away 15,000 tree seedlings for planting over the last five years, Trees for Tomorrow still has room to grow, its founder says.

Through Tuesday, the nonprofit is giving away 500 magnolias. “I wanted to do a little something for Christmas,” said Rick Baumann, owner of Murrells Inlet Seafood, who started the giveaways in 2012.

The group will have another round of seedlings to hand out in February, but the S.C. Forestry Commission, which grows the trees, urged them to start early, Baumann said.

The December magnolia project also highlights the newly-established 501(c)3 status of Trees for Tomorrow. Donations are tax deductible and will be used to buy Forestry Commission trees for the February giveaway. Baumann is also donating this month’s proceeds from sales from his soup bar to the effort.

The 500 magnolias show how the group has grown from its initial goal in 2012 of getting 100 new trees planted. Trees for Tomorrow started as a reaction to Georgetown County Council’s decision to kill an amendment to the tree ordinance that would have protected live oaks whose trunks were 30 inches or more in diameter. Rather than fight a political battle, Baumann the other organizers came up with a plan to raise awareness.

“Early on, everybody want live oaks until they figured out they didn’t have room,” Baumann said. “In 10 years, it’s going to be in your neighbor’s window.”

The mix also includes Eastern red cedar, which is popular for borders, and dogwoods and redbuds, that are valued for spring color. Some of the more prominent plantings are along Willbrook Boulevard and Prince Creek Parkway. “There are several places where we’re proud of the trees we’ve planted,” Baumann said. “People thank us for the whole idea.”

Trees that are left over at the end of each giveaway go to public facilities.

The magnolia giveaway started Sunday and about 100 were picked up in the first two days, Baumann said. He’s wanted to do the species for a while, but they weren’t available from the Forestry Commission nursery until this year.

In February, the offerings will include Shumard oaks. The species is a little more compact than live oak and “it has fabulous fall color,” Baumann said. Space is an issue because much of the current in-fill development is higher density than what has been done in the past. “It takes up so much of the green space that soaks up water and replaces it with pavement” and other impervious surfaces, he said. “When all these trees come down, the mature ones, you have to plan to many small ones to do the work.”

Nonprofit status will allows Trees for Tomorrow to seek grants for both the plantings and the public information programs. “We’d like to get more public awareness, like the folks working on the plastics [pollution]. We need to make people aware of how important trees are,” Baumann said.

“The impact that we’ve made is minuscule, but hopefully the movement will grow,” he added.

Free magnolia seedlings are available at Murrells Inlet Seafood, 4886 Business 17, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Tuesday.

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