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Nonprofit helps add cooling shade at several new sites

By KAREN THIEL

For the Washington Daily News

 

A sturdy oak planted at Festival Park in honor of Mayor Mac Hodges is one of several trees around town offering shade — and fond memories, in this case — as a result of several projects by ReLeaf, a local nonprofit fueled by its founders’ mission to “plant, promote and protect trees in and around the Original Washington.”

The memorial tree was planted Oct. 20 as part of a two-project team effort involving ReLeaf, a squad of employees from Washington’s Public Works department, an enormous spade and its crew from Little’s Nursery in Greenville, and guidance from Rivers and Associates in Greenville, which has been in charge of the downtown Main Street renovation and was called in because last week’s projects included replacement of three trees at the corner of Main Street and Stewart Parkway.

“That spade was great! The root ball of Mayor Mac’s tree weighed about 12,000 pounds all on its own. That’s heavy duty stuff,” said ReLeaf Vice President Mack Simpson, regarding the mechanical wonder, which was booked for use at both jobs that day.

All four trees — a live oak for the Mayor Mac memorial and three willow oaks for the Stewart Parkway replacements — were donated by retired superior court Judge Rusty Duke of Farmville, who, according to Simpson, helped ReLeaf get started.

WITH A VIEW: The view from Mac Hodges’ former home on Water Street now includes the tree donated and planted in his honor. (Karen Thiel)

Also on Simpson’s praise list was Public Works Director Adam Waters, who contacted ReLeaf after he became aware of the tree issues at Stewart Parkway.

“Everything just fell right into place. The time from the meeting to the new tree-planting was about two weeks. It was a great partnership,” Waters said.

Simpson was equally complimentary regarding Waters’ attitude about placing trees on city land, saying that “unlike other municipalities, his heart is in the right place when it comes to trees.”

About 55 trees have been planted by the nonprofit during the 20 months that ReLeaf has been in Washington and have included work with the P.S. Jones High School Alumni Association and Washington Garden Club. Upcoming projects include a partnership with Beaufort County Community College to create a wetlands near the western edge of the campus and replacement of dead trees in Washington Park with four live oaks. The nonprofit is currently occupied at the Open Door Womens’ Shelter on Cowell Farm Road, where Simpson said trees have been donated by an anonymous donor, who paid for two, and by ReLeaf, which is paying for the third and fourth.

“We’re almost sure they will be white oaks, because those grow really big, and the idea is to shade the kids’ playground in the back of the shelter,” Simpson said. “Our mission statement is all about planting, promoting and protecting trees. So far we’ve planted, which also promotes the need for trees among those who know us. We’re working on the protection part. We’ll keep you in the loop.”