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"It's the little things citizens do. That's what will make the difference. My little thing is planting trees."

-- Wangari Maathai, founder, Green Belt Movement

In 1977, Wangari Maathai of Kenya, founder of the Green Belt Movement, mobilized women to reforest devastated lands in her country. This project generated income and motivated communities to restore soil and water quality by planting tree by tree by tree. Now, more than 51 million young trees are growing in Kenya, and thousands of women have been trained in forestry and other trades giving them more self-determination in their lives. In 2004, Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work.

Understanding the power of an action as simple as planting a tree to change lives and communities has led Compassion Fayetteville to start a local tree planting project. The organization "is a cooperative effort by a group of citizens, who volunteer their time to increase awareness, encourage, and promote a culture of compassion through identifying, supporting, and initiating new compassionate actions in Fayetteville." This chapter, the 26th in 100-plus Compassionate City designations around the world, follows a charter that "transcends religious, ideological and cultural differences."

Working with the city's Urban Forestry department in this pilot effort, the organization will host its kickoff planting on March 21 with the goal of putting 500 native trees in parks, neighborhoods, school yards and church grounds. The cost for sponsoring a tree is $10 or $50 for a tree marked on a digitalized map with the name of the donor. Volunteers and donations as well as civic group sponsorships are needed to put these bald cypress, chinkapin, black gum and red oak trees (3 gallon pot size) in the ground. Tree planting provides not only physical restoration, but is also "a symbolic representation of the commitment and responsibility to regreen the world ... and to do something about devastated lands and the climate crisis."

An important date to remember is exactly one month from today, Jan. 31, which is the deadline for ordering your tree(s) to help restore tree canopy in our growing city. Contact Dian Williams, president of Compassion Fayetteville (a 501(c)3 non-profit), for more information at [email protected]

To plant back trees lost in our urban environment is extremely important, second only to protecting the mature ones we already have on the city's landscape. Natural area preservation is a constant battle across the globe, and here in Fayetteville danger looms over yet another of the city's gems.

In 2007, the Fayetteville Natural Heritage Association and the city saved almost 14 acres north of Lake Lucille near North Street, nestled in a sloping pocket between the ridge along U.S. 71B and the next ridge on the east where the First United Presbyterian Church sits. The association paid the city $179,500 of its hard-raised money for a conservation easement, "to ensure that the Brooks-Hummel Nature Reserve will remain forever predominately in the present condition as a nature park preserving the natural habitat as much as possible."

Now the city-developed Active Transportation Plan is calling for putting a 12-foot wide paved or boardwalk trail through the middle of this reserve. The transportation planners are interpreting the easement's allowance of trails to mean transportation corridors, a use that is definitely not why people raised the money to preserve this area. Trail lighting will steal night from the wildlife, whose homes are in these woods, and hard surfaces for bike traffic will disturb or destroy part of what is being protected there. We humans invade even our tiny remnants of green space with our machinery and pavement, despoiling what little bit of peace that can be found anywhere inside the urban squeeze.

If this multi-use trail is built, the city will clearly be reneging on an agreement with the citizens who did the real work to save this place. Such treatment will set a precedence that will discourage citizens from giving to and working for their town. I strongly encourage residents to show up at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 7 at City Hall and voice disapproval of this incursion into a nature reserve, and as soon as possible, please contact your alderman at

People without pay, power or recognition are trying very hard to protect parts of this beautiful city (saving Markham Hill from crushing development being a prime example), and need many voices to join theirs in these efforts. Silence is the killer in grass-root struggles. Please make your voice heard. And for the New Year, plant a tree.

Commentary on 12/31/2019

Print Headline: A tree makes a difference

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