For the Trees

BY Melissa Sutton-Seng

“What does he plant who plants a tree?

He plants the friend of sun and sky;

He plants the flag of breezes free;

The shaft of beauty towering high

he plants a home to heaven anigh.

For song and mother-croon of bird

in hushed and happy twilight heard —

The treble of heaven’s harmony.

These things he plants who plants a tree.”

— Henry Cuyler Bunner

The Alliance for Cape Fear Trees (ACFT) was created “to preserve protect and plant trees in the Greater Wilmington Area and to enhance the quality of life for present and future generations.” The Alliance was formed in December 2015 by members of the Wilmington Tree Commission and is part of the Renaissance Wilmington Foundation.

Inspired by working with the City of Wilmington the volunteers who formed ACFT sought to further their efforts through advocacy action and fund-raising. Working closely with city and county governments the Alliance advocates for the urban forestry needs of the community and facilitates tree planting in public spaces.

Many area residents have benefited from the organization’s work. ACFT has planted trees along the Riverwalk in downtown Wilmington and at Greenfield Lake. The Alliance plants trees in public housing and low-income neighborhoods many of which were never allotted funding for trees or from which trees were previously removed.

In perhaps their most well-known project Alliance members assisted in the relocation of the Ogden Oak when Market Street was widened in 2017. This summer the Alliance helped save more live oaks in Ogden when a developer was planning to remove them to construct a car wash. Much effort has been focused on replacing trees lost in Hurricane Florence and that work will continue for many months to come.

As a nonprofit ACFT raises funds in the form of grants and individual donations and through its Trees Forever program. It has received national grants from organizations including the Arbor Day Foundation and T. D. Bank.The Trees Forever program allows individuals to sponsor a tree in honor or memory of a loved one. The donor chooses the type of tree and the Alliance works with the city to determine where it will be placed.

All Alliance members and its team are volunteers so donated funds can be maximized. Plantings are held several times each year and frequently draw dozens of volunteers.

Visitors to a handful of special area gardens and churchyards might find puzzling winding paths laid out in secluded clearings and quiet spaces. Though they may appear confusing at first these are not mazes filled with tricks or dead ends. Rather they are labyrinths used for prayer meditation and sometimes just for fun.