Alabama residents will not forget April’s devastating flurry of tornadoes that swept across the state. More than 230 people were killed, and damage estimates are in the billions of dollars. There is not a good estimate on how many trees were toppled by the massive outburst of storms.
So many trees were knocked down by the storms, one county coordinator with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System says his hometown was unrecognizable.
“You could have gotten lost in downtown Cullman even if you were a longtime resident,” says Tony Glover, the Cullman County Extension coordinator. “Buildings that we used as landmarks were destroyed.
“We are a Tree City USA, and we were used to seeing all of the trees, especially older ones that gave Cullman its character. In parts of town, hundreds of trees in the public right of way were just gone. That doesn’t begin to consider how many trees were toppled on private land.”
Glover and Extension colleagues spent much of the weeks immediately following the tornadoes helping individuals and communities get back on their feet.
But after that initial work was done, Glover, a horticulturist by training, realized that Extension could play a major role in reestablishing tree plantings both on private land and public green spaces.
Glover felt that one way Extension could make an impact was to develop, create and distribute a publication.
“We wanted to make sure that people did a good job when they began replanting trees,” he says. “Since fall and winter are the best times to plant trees here in Alabama, I thought we needed to get something in the public’s hands fairly quickly.”
Glover, Kerry Smith, who is also an Extension horticulture expert, and Jack Rowe, an Extension regional forestry agent, wrote an easy-to-read, short publication that focused on selecting the right tree for the right place and how to correctly plant and care for a new tree.
At 8.5 inches by 14 inches, the full color publication is designed to fit easily in a business sized envelope. While this format is somewhat unusual for Alabama Extension publications, Glover had his reasons for wanting it sized this way.
“Extension people have answers. Sometimes our challenge is getting that information to the people where they need it and when they need it.”
Glover saw the most direct way to get this publication in citizens’ hands was in their utility bills.
“We partnered with the Cullman Power Board to insert the new publication in every power bill ensuring the publication would go to every home, enabling Extension to deliver the information at no cost.”
But there were more partnerships that helped put Extension publication ANR-1405, “Tree Selection, Planting and Care” publication in the hands of more than 200,000 Alabama residents. Glover and Bethany O’Rear, an Extension regional horticulture agent in Jefferson County, sought help from the Alabama Nursery and Landscape Association.
James Harwell, ALNLA executive director, says it was obvious that the publication would be valuable to Birmingham as well.
“Drawing on the relationship that we established during the 2007 drought, we worked with the Birmingham Water Board to get the publication in every November water bill,” says Harwell. The ALNLA paid for the publication’s printing.
O’Rear says the partnership with ALNLA is vital.
“Connections with industry organizations are critical to Extension,” she says. “Extension is all about outreach, and we would not be able to reach all who need us without the help of industry partners.”
Glover says the publication will create multiple positive results.
“First, it will help people select and plant trees correctly,” says Glover. “That means that both public and private land will be improved with trees that enhance their appearance and that can provide energy conservation benefits.
“But also the state’s green industry will benefit as people purchase trees and other supplies. Extension’s partnership network has also expanded meaning that we have additional potential partners for future projects.”
To read “Tree Selection, Planting and Care,” follow this link: : http://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-1405/ANR-1405.pdf.