Tree Week 2022: Planting celebration through education


Maria Rauh

Volunteers planting the first tree for Tree Week on Oct. 7, 2022, in Kirklevington Park in Lexington, KY. Photo by Maria Rauh | Kentucky Kernel

Morgan Loy, Reporter

The fifth annual Tree Week took place Oct. 8-16 in Lexington and other locations around Kentucky. The Urban Forest Initiative working group, a collective of individuals working in tree-related fields, created Tree Week to help promote the tree canopies of Kentucky.

Tree Week is intended to create a space for those who may not think about the trees around them to learn more about them in free public events, such as a Lexington tree giveaway, tree identification tours and a concert featuring music written about nature in Kentucky.

“Tree Week is a celebration of trees and green space around Lexington and in other communities in Kentucky,” Claire Hilbrecht, member of the Tree Week planning team, said.

Hilbrecht said trees fight against climate change and enhance the livability of cities such as Lexington. There were dozens of events held during Tree Week, with many taking place in Lexington and even a few on the University of Kentucky campus.

“Tree Week is just an opportunity to kind of get out of that routine of seeing the green space as just something in the background, and actually getting involved with the green space, and forming relationships with particular trees and learning how they function in cities,” Hilbrecht said.

The Signature Tree Planting Kick-Off event took place on Friday, Oct. 7, at Kirklevington Park. At the event, there were several informative booths set up, and three trees were planted to honor the beginning of Tree Week 2022.

Elizabeth Kilcoyne of Seedleaf, an organization that focuses on growing and sharing food, hosted a booth.

“I think Tree Week really aligns with our values,” she said. “There’s nothing better than planting a local food tree.”

The Mayor of Lexington, Linda Gorton, spoke at the event and presented a proclamation to Heather Wilson, who works in the Lexington Fayette County Urban Forestry department. Gorton declared Oct. 8-16, 2022, Lexington Tree Week.

On Oct. 8, UK biology professor Carol Baskin led a group of students in identifying the different trees planted on UK’s campus. She explained the unique characteristics of various tree species and where they are native.

By comparing leaves and acorn types, she showed students how to tell each tree apart. Baskin expressed the importance of students being able to recognize the trees they encounter each day.

“It makes you be a lot more observant of your surroundings,” she said. “I think when people can tell an oak from an ironwood, the world is no longer a big green blur.”

The UK grounds team, with help from a group of students, added six more trees to campus during the UK Campus Tree Planting event on Oct. 13. The trees are located behind the Gatton Student Center.

Nic Williamson, UK’s arboriculture superintendent, and other grounds team members showed students the proper ways to prepare a tree for planting and allowed them to try it themselves.

Williamson explained the long history of UK’s green space design and emphasized the efforts that have been made to plant and maintain the trees on campus.

“We have over 12,000 trees here on the UK main campus,” he said. “It’s a pleasure to live, create, go to class, learn and walk amongst these nice green spaces we have.”

Students split off into teams to dig and plant trees. UK sophomore Rosbelly Rios said she was excited to watch a tree grow and recognize it as the one she planted. Rios worked with UK freshman Julia Zimmer to plant the tree.

“It’s nice to know we’re planting a tree,” Rios said.

Lynn Roche-Phillips, co-leader of the Urban Forest Initiative, also spoke at the event. She emphasized her interest in the far-reaching effects of trees.

Roche-Phillips explained that cities where marginalized communities often live lack trees and green spaces. She said she is working with four communities across Kentucky to bring attention to the lack of green spaces in those communities.

“I got involved because I see the benefit of trees as a tool of social justice,” she said. “A tree does so much.”