Ultimate Pay-it-Forward Project Puts Family “Roots” in 98% of State’s Counties for Dad
(Tennessee, USA) — What the Volunteer State is certain to record as the single largest reforestation project by an individual draws to a close later this month as natural resource planner Chris Clark makes final deliveries on 100,000 free trees he’s gifted to the people of Tennessee.
“I am glad to show folks something like this can be done; this has inspired a lot of involvement with the environment, and possibly millions of smiles in Tennessee over time,” said Clark, a second generation natural resource professional who conceived the philanthropic campaign as a legacy project for the company his father founded 35 years ago, SC&A Natural Resources.
“In just a few months, the 100,000 tree campaign went from a simple idea for honoring my dad who died on the first day of Spring six years ago, to an engaging campaign that impacted thousands of families statewide,” said Clark, president of the natural resource planning company Steve Clark & Associates (www.sca-nr.com).
Clark extended his staff’s time and other business resources to achieve the unthinkable in just four months. In the end, his contribution of 100,000 oaks, cypress, pines and poplars — ranging in size from 1/2” to 1/4” in diameter — will yield lifetimes of environmental benefits through energy savings, natural habitat, water quality, soil erosion control, and major carbon impacts, too.
According to The National Tree Benefit Calculator, conceived and developed by Casey Trees and The Davey Tree Expert Company, should all of Clark’s adopted trees survive even 20 years, they will soak in a combined 41,112.5 tons of carbon each year. That’s close to what a 350-acre forest would absorb annually — for comparison sake, Washington, D.C.’s Capital Mall is approximately 309-acres from tip to toe.
The EPA says Clark’s overall vision could yield an annual economic impact of $11,260,000 starting in the 20th year. Most of the species he chose will live between 60 and 100 years.
From Shelby and Lake counties in West Tennessee to Johnson and Polk in the east, the diverse ways in which groups have adopted trees statewide illustrates the universal appeal of the offer:
- When funding for Lauderdale and Cheatham county ‘Tree Days’ fell through, Clark’s trees popped up as the solution — 400 saplings strong;
- Hamblen County used hundreds of Clark’s trees to screen junkyards;
the newest school in the small town of Jonesboro (Washington County) had no trees on its lot. Enter 250 of Clark’s gifts, with another 250 for a nearby park;
- individual citizens stepped up, like Bedford County high school student Kyle Pyrdom who personally distributed 1,400 trees as a 4-H project in his community;
- more than 500 trees touched down in a bank mitigation project at Nashville International Airport, where officials wanted to buffer a nearby stream;
- almost 6,000 trees took root in Johnson City, where numerous community interests adopted more trees than any other single area;
- 5,000 trees in Memphis will help establish a tree nursery at the 4,500-acre Shelby Farms Park where a One Million Tree planting campaign will provide ongoing educational programing;
- dozens of other organizations paid the gift forward by providing trees to neighborhood associations, watershed groups, churches and more.
Since January, Clark has provided free trees to everyday someone in 93 in Tennessee’s 95 counties – from everyday citizens, government agencies and non-profit organizations to CEOs, sustainability officers, site managers, engineers, urban foresters, extension service officials and others SC&A otherwise communicates with in a typical day.
“Most people heard “free trees” and asked “What’s the catch?” Clark said. “There was no catch — we just wanted to engage people with the environment and plant trees in Tennessee.”
One of the largest international corporations to call Tennessee home, Bridgestone Americas, requested more than 2,150 trees to share with its co-workers across the state.
“Taking part in this project isn’t about creating a feel-good story for a CSR report – this is about doing the right thing for our community and our environment and it’s a privilege to participate,” said Tim Bent, Director of Environmental Affairs for Bridgestone Americas, Inc.
About half of Bridgestone’s trees were distributed to corporate employees who wanted them while the rest were nut-bearing species that were planted as a sustainable food source for turkeys, deer, raccoons and other native wildlife on a 600-acre natural habitat and outdoor classroom at the company’s Warren County plant. The Bridgestone Environmental Education Classroom and Habitat (BEECH) program there provides hands-on environmental studies of local wildlife and their habitats.
“We wanted individuals to understand that it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or time to help the environment,” Clark said. “A little tree and a little water make big a difference.”
“I asked my six-year-old daughter Catherine if she understood what we were doing and why, she told me ‘so we can go show my kids the trees we planted and what we did for them.’ This is what makes the entire campaign a success to me,” Clark said.
# # #