‘Planting for the future’: Local organization offers trees to residents, needs volunteers


Michael J. Collins

A large tree lays with its roots in the air on Magnolia Street following the tornadoes that struck Bowling Green in December of 2021.

Michael Crimmins, Administration reporter

Following the tornadoes that ravaged Bowling Green in December 2021, more than 3,000 trees were left strewn about the community, blocking roads, bringing down power lines and damaging homes.

Re-Tree BG, a group of volunteers partnering with Operation Pride, is striving to replace the trees that were in the tornado’s path by distributing new trees to Bowling Green residents that lost theirs to the storm.

Eleanor Bower and Clara Verst founded the organization earlier this year because they both realized the necessity of trees for the environment and for life in general, Bower said.

“Clara and I are both Sierra Club members and before that, you could call us tree-huggers,” Bower said. “We know the value of trees. Trees are not lawn ornaments, they are not decorations […] trees are showing to be, outside of the oceans, one of the most important factors for life on earth.”

Bower, who has lived in Bowling Green for 16 years, did not have any damage to her property, but she recalls Verst’s garage was crushed during the tornado.

“It’s just devastating,” Bower said. “[Verst] said ‘we’ve got to do something about this’ and that’s what started it.”

Bower said the health of ecosystems and local temperature are all affected by the absence of trees.

“Time after time after time, people would say to us, ‘it’s so hot this summer, it was so hot I can’t believe it’,” Bower said. “It’s all because the trees are gone.”

All the members of this relatively new group are volunteers, Bower said, with a committee of eight members who meet once a month. The committee holds their meetings in the Neighborhood and Community Services Building on East Main Street.

In total, Re-Tree BG has five sponsors including Operation Pride and the Sierra Club. Bower said the various sponsors aid the group with the funds needed to supply the trees they are giving away.

Bower said they get the trees mostly from a nursery in Russellville. Among the trees given away this year are three different types of Oak trees, Maples, Tulip trees and Dogwoods. 

The trees are in a 5-to-7 gallon bucket and come with a bag of mulch, a water bag and an instruction guide that contains proper care tips for the type of tree a person receives.

To request a free tree, those interested should complete the tree request form on the organization’s Facebook page. Afterwards, volunteers from Re-Tree BG will complete a “site consultation” to determine the space of the lot, the best locations relative to the power lines and what type of tree will serve applicants best.

As the organization is solely made up of volunteers, Bowers said they are always looking for people to join up. Re-Tree BG is looking for volunteers in various positions like publicity, ordering, pickup and handing out.

“We need two kinds of volunteers,” Bower said. “We need volunteers that will join our committee, and then can help out with various things […] and then we need volunteers that can help us do the site consultations. The second kind of volunteer we need is mostly muscle.”

Re-Tree BG is giving out 64 trees on Oct. 15 and they need volunteers to give them to their new owners who they have already determined, Bower said. Re-Tree BG plans to keep offering free trees past just helping repair the tornado deforestation, but right now that is their focus.

“At first, we’re concentrating on tornado victims,” Bower said. “When we get those 3,000 trees planted we will then try to [expand].”

To make a donation, to inquire about volunteer opportunities or to request a tree contact Bower at 270-777-5085 or email Re-Tree BG at [email protected]. For more information on the organization, visit their Facebook page.

“We’re hoping that people will become very emotionally engaged,” Bower said. “That not only will we re-tree but we’ll get people excited about the urban forest and the importance of the trees.”

Administration reporter Michael Crimmins can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @michael_crimm.