- Associated Press - Saturday, July 11, 2020

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - At least twice daily, large tree stumps scattered across Fisk Park are shadowed by a bowed baseball cage, bent swing sets and a dilapidated picnic pavilion.

The historied North Nashville park nestled off 25th Avenue North and Burch Street hasn’t always looked that way.

Its grounds suffered a major blow when a deadly March 3 tornado swept across Nashville, destroying nearly everything in its path - including 120 of the park’s long-standing trees.

“Only about 10 trees remain today,” said Noni Nielsen, board president of the Nashville Tree Foundation, a non-profit that works to preserve and enhance the city’s trees.

Thanks to a little local green love, that number will soon be bolstered.

This fall, Nielsen said, the foundation plans to replant 120 trees at the park which Metro Parks Superintendent of Horticulture and Landscaping Randall Lantz deemed was the hardest hit by the tornado in the city. In addition, she said, they also plan to plant 80 more trees there.

The Garden Club of Nashville secured a restoration grant from the Garden Club of America which will be providing the funding for the replanting effort, Nielsen said.

In all, the twister destroyed tens of thousands of trees across Music City.

The foundation was slated to kick off its ReLeaf 2020 Campaign in late March in hopes of raising $1 million to replant 10,000 trees destroyed by the tornado.

The coronavirus pandemic forced organizers to postpone it.

“Even though COVID has really stopped us in our tracks for now, it’s giving us good planning time for the next planting season,” Nielsen said. “You only really plan trees … late October through early April, when the trees are dormant and have a better chance of surviving. So we didn’t lose that much time.”

Nielsen said the foundation has 990 trees targeted at other sites across the city for the upcoming planting season.

“Our biggest focus this year is in North Nashville and Doneslon,” she said. “There have been some feelings that a lot of volunteers rushed to East Nashville after the tornado. North Nashville was hit just as bad so we’re trying to give North Nashville some love.”

In addition, Hermitage, East Nashville and Mt. Juliet are on the list, where the tornado also hit hard.

Since the tornado, Root Nashville, a citywide tree-planting campaign led by the Cumberland River Compact and Metro Nashville, who partners with the Nashville Tree Foundation has planted 500 trees across the city, including some in Lockeland Springs Park.

In the Root Nashville campaign, all newly-planted trees count toward a citywide goal of planting 500,000 trees by 2050, said Meg Morgan, the campaign’s manager.

“We are really proud of the amazing work our neighborhood panting captains to recruit their neighbors for replanting projects,” Morgan said. “These Captains are on-the-ground neighborhood leaders, recruited and trained by Root Nashville to get the word out to their own neighbors about available trees. We thought that setting up plantings and sharing opportunities for free trees would be much more successful if the outreach was conducted by people who actually live in the neighborhood - and so far, this has definitely been the case.”

Replanting at Fisk Park is slated for Nov. 14.

One week later, on Nov. 21, NTF plans to plant 65 trees in Donelson at four schools: McGavock High School, Two Rivers Middle Prep, Donelson Christian Academy and The Tennessee School for the Blind.

In addition, it plans to plant 100 trees in private yards across that same neighborhood hit hard by the tornado. That planting is made possible by a partnership with Nashville Electric Service.

“Efforts are underway to encourage more residents to plant trees on their own property,” Nielsen said. “When you think about Nashville’s canopy, most of our trees have been planted on metro Nashville school campuses and parks. So we need to plan a way to plant trees on private properties.”

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