Danville group seeks donations for new trees

Published 6:00 am Saturday, October 28, 2023

By Mary Couch and Fiona Morgan


A local group has been planting trees around Danville for the past 10 years, bringing shade and beauty to local neighborhoods.

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The Danville Tree Fund partnership is between the Danville government, the Danville Garden Club, the Wilderness Trace Community Foundation, Kentucky Utilities, the Boyle County Extension Office, and local volunteers, including over 50 families that contributed funds last year. Volunteers collect donations each year that go toward planting trees in the community.

The group is currently collecting donations for a matching grant by Kentucky Utilities. Local volunteer and Centre College Sociology Professor Beau Weston leads the donation collection. Danville Beautification Committee member Janet Hamner helped start the fund, and the Extension Office Horticulturist Alexis Sheffield selects the best suited species. To complete the last step, “Crucially, the city donates all the labor,” adds Weston.

While people can donate anytime, the deadline to apply for the KU grant is Nov. 1. Any funds raised before Nov. 1 can be included in the application.

Weston explained that KU usually gives between $2,500 and $5,000 per year for the matching grant, and that it’s different every year. So far this year, the group has raised $6,000.

“So $6,000 the last few years has been usual, because people have gotten used to it,” Weston said. “If it becomes a well-oiled machine and people look forward to it, we’ll just keep building up our community.”

As hoped, the fund has been receiving regular donations, with the Garden Club donating every year, and many businesses and community members regularly contributing. Weston said one person consistently passes on their annuity, and another gives each year in honor of their mother.

This year they are raising money for the sidewalks of the Southtown neighborhoods near Hogsett Primary School.

The group collects money for the plantings a year in advance. Money that was raised last year will be used in this upcoming planting season to fund trees in the Colonial Heights and Candlewood subdivisions.

Likely, those trees will get planted close to February of 2024, depending on the frost. Weston said they usually plant trees in the winter.

“You don’t want to put them in the ground when it’s cold, and then it gets warm and the sap starts to rise,” Weston explained. “And then it gets cold again and it freezes. So that’s why you wait until it’s definitely cold.”

The group has planted about 500 trees in Danville and Boyle County over 10 years, which is about 50 trees per year. The trees they plant are usually one to three inches in diameter, and they look for ones that are about 10 feet high. The trees cost about $200 each.

According to Weston, those types of trees are not too difficult to handle when planting, but not so small that they take too long to grow. Finding this sweet spot is not always so easy.

“Janet Hamner, one year, had to go to four different nurseries to get enough trees,” Weston shared. “We want to have a mix of species, basically native hardwoods, but good shade trees.”

About $10,000 is necessary each year to purchase the trees. They generally raise about $5,000 per year, some of which goes to planting, and the rest into a new endowment.

The group started an endowment in 2022 through the Wilderness Trace Community Foundation. It currently has $30,000 and they have a goal of getting it to $50,000.

With the money from this endowment, the city has been able to use $1,500 per year to employ an intern to water the trees two days a week during the summer. The first caretaker was hired this past summer, who was a recent graduate of Boyle County High School. The intern uses a water truck from the city to water all the trees.

Weston said they hope to eventually hire a Centre student to make an online map of every tree they’ve planted, what species they are, and the City of Danville will put it on its website.

The fund all began in the winter of 2009 when an ice storm took out the shade trees along neighborhood streets in Danville. In a combined effort with his neighbors, Weston raised money to buy a mixture of maples and dogwoods. With the help of Centre College students, he and his neighbors planted 24 trees along their curb strips.

News of the environmental renewal spread through the town, and soon local people started encouraging Weston to plant other trees around town, especially since many trees had been lost along Main Street.

Later on, Weston started talking to Earl Coffey, the city engineer at the time, who explained that the Kentucky Utilities Foundation matches up to $5,000 in grants for tree planting. From there, the planting process was born.

From the first planting, they put four trees in front of the Presbyterian Church of Danville that provide shade to visitors, and that Weston refers to as, “Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.” Other trees from earlier plantings are outside of the post office, having reached about 15 feet tall.

The fund has also been used to celebrate the 225th anniversary of the state of Kentucky. They planted 25 tulip poplars, the state tree, across public schools in the area. They also planted tulip poplars and maples along the entrance to Millennium Park, filling the grassy median along the entryway, and bald cypresses elsewhere in the park.

Their work serves not only aesthetic purposes, as they were also able to use a grant for flood control around Clark’s Run, planting many trees along the stream and the surrounding trail.

Despite all of the hard work that goes into the tree fund, Weston does not consider himself an expert. “My role is to be a cheerleader, cheerleader and fundraiser,” he said.

People can donate by giving checks to Weston. Checks should be made to Wilderness Trace Community Foundation, with “Tree Fund” in the memo line. Donations are tax-deductible. People can also donate by going to the fund website.

Centre College Professor Beau Weston stands in front of two trees he helped plant in his neighborhood after an ice storm. Photo by Fiona Morgan

The tree fund planted tulip poplars and maples along the entrance to Millennium Park, filling the grassy median along the entrance. Photo by Fiona Morgan

In the early days of the Tree Fund, Weston helped plant trees in his neighborhood that have now grown to a decent size. Photo by Fiona Morgan