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Coastal Bryan Tree Foundation: 20 years and still growing
Tree planting 1
Volunteers with the Coastal Bryan Tree Foundation plant the group’s 100th tree at the Wetlands Center at J.F. Gregory Park. Photo provided.

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now. -Chinese Proverb.

This is supposed to be a news article. But I just can’t do it. And though I know that Valentine’s and Gal-entine’s has passed, I am writing a love letter. Tied up with leaf green bows. Let me explain.

I am in love with trees. All trees, but especially Quercus virginiana, the live oak. Sappy isn’t it? (Sorry. . .! ) And I am not the only one in love with this tree. Besides being the Official State Tree of Georgia, it is the tree of choice for the Coastal Bryan Tree Foundation’s plantings here in Richmond Hill. In fact, this love letter is addressed not only to the trees but also to this Foundation and its people both of which occupy a large room in my heart.

So what about the CBTF and apple green bows? In celebration of 20 years of planting, and over 2,000 trees, the live oak in Richmond Hill will be festooned with big bows marking them as plantings by the Foundation. Trees at the schools and parks adorned and honored. Our part of this 100-mile coast bowing to the natural beauty that embraces us.

Having spent 37 years in the classroom, I love young people, young learners, so I am especially happy that they are joining the party. In recognition of the work of the Foundation and the planting of trees, the schools of Richmond Hill and South Bryan County, including Richmond Hill Primary, Carver Elementary, McAllister Elementary and Richmond Hill Middle School, will participate in ribbon-tying ceremonies other campuses Friday, Feb. 28.

I love that Mayor Russ Carpenter will designate Coastal Bryan Tree Foundation Day on March 3, with a formal proclamation from the City of Richmond Hill. It’s nice to work with your government toward shared goals. All of these activities lead up to the festivities on March 7, the Annual Oyster Roast at J. F. Gregory Park. With Shannon Baughman as president and Becky Kolgaklis as secretary heading up this event, you don’t want to miss this festive coastal party.

Contact CBTF at for tickets, sponsorship and membership. All the proceeds go toward the planting of more canopy trees and the ever-popular Free Tree Give-Away on April 4 at Way Station Shopping Center. I love a Free Tree, don’t you?

A Brief History of Dear People: This foundation was my dream when we moved here 22 years ago. I served as the first president. But its the people of this vibrant community that went to work to build a successful organization. After a phone call from Linda Barker, my proposal was accepted and supported in its infancy by the Richmond Hill Bryan County Chamber of Commerce.

After getting its feet under it, the CBTF spun off into its own 501c3 status.

Under the wise and dedicated guidance of Wendy Bolton, CBTF earned state-wide recognition as the Tree Foundation of the Year in 2005, awarded by the Georgia Forestry Association. Carole Brogdon, CPA and builder and one of the most generous spirits I know, kept the books and filed the appropriate taxes for years. Mark Bolton built the website and championed our every effort.

Jimmie and Donna Norris pitched in all of the plantings. My partner in life, Nevin, planted, hauled, watered, staked and even got a speeding ticket on his way to pick up doughnuts for the kids out on a Saturday morning. He loved that.

Ted Flake, the best of the best at ginning up the bidding at a charity silent auction, next took the reins as he and Gene Brogdon, a force for good in every community endeavor you can name, worked with both city and county governments to write tree ordinances that helped address the loss of canopy as vigorous growth swept over the south end of the county. Chris Flake took charge of fund-raising check-ins at the fund raiser of those early years, which we fittingly called The Root Ball.

For the last six years, Shannon Baughman, who knows how to get things done and with the gentlest of demeanors, brought with him a crew who have nurtured the Foundation, with the support of the Barkers—Linda, Larry, Jason and Ashley—as well as Dick Brockhoff, the champion of Sponsor Sales, plus the hard working guys at Bartlett Trees. In comes young blood: JayJay Hendrix and Jackie Arbogast, two energetic and competent young women bringing new vision and energy to the mission.

What’s not to love?

In Praise of Expertise:

From the beginning, the CBTF has been blessed by expertise: experienced arborists who have volunteered their time and knowledge to the community. Don Gardner, long-time County Extension Agent and former Director of Park and Trees of Savannah, got us started off on the right foot. Then Jerry Holcomb, retired as the arborist for the City of Columbus, Georgia, guided us in both arboriculture and creation of ordinances that are pragmatic as well as environmentally strong.

The present president, Shannon Baughman, is himself a professional arborist, a beautiful two-fer for the CBTF.

Summary: Two thousand trees. Twenty years and still growing. And you are invited to join us in this critical mission: to plant, promote and protect the tree canopy of coastal Bryan County.

The trees will thank you, as will future generations that may never know your name. But just as we have been blessed by those before us, those in the future will bless you, nevertheless.

I’ll end where I began, with a quote I love. I think Nelson Henderson has it about right: “The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”

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