Volunteers help restore tree population at local park

Release Date: 11/12/2011

Clarksville, Ark. --- Around 40 volunteers from Ozarks and the Clarksville community turned out on Saturday, November 12, to help with a tree restoration project in Clarksville's Cline Park.

Cline Park is a community-friendly park, with ball fields, play areas, a tennis court, and a small golf course. A tree-shaded trail meanders through the park, following a trickling stream. Walking through the park, you might notice small silver tags that look very much like dog tags nailed to some of the trees. These tags, placed on the trees by the Arkansas Forestry Commission, link each tree to an official record created when the tree population in the park was inventoried about a year ago. Three massive oaks stand together in a group on the west side of the park, their silver tags hanging just out of reach. Trees 951, 952, and 953 all survived two recent storms. But many other trees in the park weren't so lucky.

According to Tom Cogan, Clarksville Parks and Recreation Director, many of Cline Park's trees suffered significant wind damage during those storms. Standing by all that remains of one of those trees, an oddly tilted stump sporting a few scattered leaves, Cogan described the impact the storms had. "In the May 2011 tornado we lost 48 trees," he said, "but two years ago, when we had a storm with really bad straight-line winds, we lost 32. So we've lost 80 trees in the park. Today, we're planting back 100 new ones, all shumard oak and pin oak."

Dr. Jeffries explains how to properly plant a young tree.

Dr. Doug Jeffries explains to students the proper way to plant one of the young oaks. Altogether, 100 young trees were planted in Cline Park as part of the volunteer effort.

The tree-planting project was organized by Clarksville's tree board, formed when Clarksville was certified as a "Tree City USA" city seven years ago. Tree City USA is a program created in 1976 by the National Arbor Day Foundation, which is co-sponsored by the National Association of State Foresters and the USDA Forest Service. The program's goal is to ensure that qualifying communities have a viable tree management plan and program. Clarksville is only one of 40 cities in the state of Arkansas to have received certification through the program.

Ozarks professor of biology and environmental studies, Dr. Doug Jeffries, who also serves as chair of the Clarksville tree board said, "The tree board set up this event as an activity to replace the trees that got lost in the recent windstorms. This is also the time when the university normally does its own tree planting project. But since the city had this big need, we decided to do this as a community service project instead."

Members of local Boy Scout Troop 76 and employees from the Clarksville Parks Department turned out to help plant the young oaks, along with around 25 volunteers from the Ozarks community. Several of the student volunteers said they that while they came to the park to satisfy a community service requirement for a Critical Inquiry class, they were happy that they were doing something to help restore the park. As one young woman said as she worked, "We have to attend certain community service events for CI class, but I think I might have done this anyway."

Dr. Brian Hardman, Ozarks associate professor of English, was another of the volunteers from campus. He brought his family with him to the park.

"I've been on campus for just six years myself, but in that time the trees that we've planted there have changed so much already," he said. "The first ones that I ever helped plant are right behind my office -- two big burr oaks. My son was there with me this morning. Those trees have the biggest acorns on them; we were out there picking them up." He said that even though trees take so long to grow, it's amazing how quickly they change. Watching as his two small children help pack the dirt around a young sapling, he said, "We hope that for many years we'll be able to come back to these trees we've planted and watch them grow."