$6K goes to tree project

Published 12:04 am Friday, August 26, 2011

NATCHEZ — The Symphony of Gardens Tour donated funds they hope to see blossom and flourish downtown.

Representatives for the group appeared before Community Alliance board members Thursday to present the Adams County Master Gardeners and the Community Alliance with a $6,000 donation to go toward the downtown tree well project.

The project, which is a partnership between the Master Gardeners and the Community Alliance, aims to restore empty and damaged tree wells — the bases under trees — downtown so that new trees can be placed into them.

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Thanks to the Symphony of Gardens’ donation, the initiative can begin in October or November, said Elaine Gemmell, a Master Gardener.

“The Symphony of Gardens was formed about five and a half years ago, and the emphasis is to beautify Natchez gardening,” said Karen Dardick, an organizer of the Symphony of Gardens tours. “We thought a very good way to use the proceeds (from the Symphony of Gardens tour) was to donate to the tree well project.”

Community Alliance Chairman John Holyoak said on top of the $6,000 donation, there have been 12 commitments for sponsoring wells, which costs $250.

“Some people are (sponsoring) more than one,” he said. “We already have checks coming in.”

Gemmell said the original intent was to beautify downtown Natchez by planting flowers under trees, then the Master Gardeners realized the real problem is there aren’t enough trees in the first place.

“We’re just really happy to do this,” she said. “We’re going to plant mostly crepe myrtles, because they’ll survive in the tree wells.

“We’re going to plant hollies where there are already hollies — we want to keep whole block faces the same.”

For example, she said, in front of the Eola Hotel, hollies are already planted, and the Master Gardeners plan to replace a birch tree in front of Britton & Koontz Bank.

“I don’t want to think of taking those trees down,” she said. “They’re only six or seven years old.”

Holyoak said the group would start by working with the wells that are in the best condition and then go back to the ones that are in the worst.

The first phase of the project will entail 49 trees being planted on Main and Franklin streets, Gemmell said, and their locations — 25 trees on one street and 24 trees on the other — have already been decided; she shared a diagram with the group.

City Engineer David Gardner, who is also a member of the Community Alliance and works on the tree well project, said it’s possible that Phase II of the Natchez Trails Project could include more tree wells.

“(We could) work with the Master Gardeners on maybe some good places to locate those,” he said.

Holyoak said he can’t imagine that the project would have come to fruition without the partnership between the Community Alliance and the Master Gardeners.

“It’s a good thing the Community Alliance has to offer — if someone has a passion and is willing to spearhead (a project), we can partner with them and get it done,” he said.

The overall project is expected to cost nearly $20,000.

Those who are interested in sponsoring a tree well should send contributions to P.O. Box 18231 (Natchez, Ms 39122), and checks should be made out to Natchez-Adams County Community Alliance.