Tree project still in fundraising stage

Published 12:02 am Tuesday, November 29, 2011

ERIC SHELTON/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Carlos White walks past newly planted trees on Main Street Monday afternoon. The trees are a part of the Community Alliance and Master Gardners’ downtown beautification project. The organizations have planted approximately 50 trees in the downtown area.

NATCHEZ — Recent donations will help jumpstart the second phase of the downtown tree beautification project led by the Natchez-Adams County Community Alliance and Adams County Master Gardeners.

Community Alliance member John Holyoak said the project has received three donations in the last month totaling $1,500 that, along with money left over from the first phase and other donations that have been committed, should fund the start of the second phase tentatively scheduled for January.

The project is a partnership between the gardeners and the alliance and aims to plant or replace approximately 90-100 of the 184 trees in the downtown area.

Master Gardeners planted 46 trees in tree wells, the bases under the trees, along Franklin and Main streets in the first phase of the project, which was completed a couple of weeks ago. The gardeners also planted pansies, snapdragons, daffodils and other flowers around the trees.

The second phase will entail the removal and replacement of dead or deteriorating trees and the planting of flowers under the trees on Franklin and Main streets.

Master Gardener Karen Dardick said part of the Master Gardeners’ mission is to also educate people on how to garden. She said planting of the flowers under the downtown trees will show people what flowers will flourish in Natchez’s climate.

Dardick said the gardeners plan to create a brochure identifying all the flowers.

Master Gardener Elaine Gemmell said the majority of the trees that are being planted for the project are crepe myrtles. She said there are crepe myrtles around town that are nearly 100 years old, and the tree can survive in the tree wells.

The project came about, Holyoak said, when the gardeners decided to revitalize downtown trees for the Southern Region Master Gardener Conference that will be in Natchez in May. He said the gardeners asked the alliance to help in the fundraising efforts

Holyoak said the project is also a wonderful complement to the Natchez Trails Project and the proposed Bridge of Sighs project.

The goal, Holyoak said, is to convert the downtown area into a “beautiful, historic park-like setting” to attract tourists and even prospective companies.

“It’s not only for tourists, but also for prospective companies looking to bring their companies and families here,” he said. “We feel like this is a big draw for people to say, ‘This is the community I want to settle in.’”

Holyoak said the cost for each tree well is $250, but he said the cost varies depending on what work is needed with each tree well.

The Master Gardeners are working on the project as volunteers, and additional landscaping services are being contracted out to Gamberi Landscaping.

Master Gardener Elaine Gemmell said the estimated project cost is $20,000, and the project depends entirely on donations. She said there is not currently enough money to fund all of phase II.

“I think it’s good for our town,” she said. “If we had more shade trees downtown, it would be a more inviting area, and maybe more people would shop downtown.”

“I think there should be community involvement and a sense of pride for this project,” Gemmell said.

Donations can be sent to P.O. Box 18231, Natchez, MS 39122. Checks should be made out to Natchez-Adams County Community Alliance and indicated for the beautification project.