lucy ryan - 50 trees

Lucy Ryan and Kathy Paulson pose with a recently planted tree at Grace Church.

Did you know there are more than one-thousand references to the earth and caring for God’s creation in the Bible? The message is clear — we are all connected to God’s creation and we are called to care for all God has made.

Grace Church is fortunate to sit on a beautiful piece of property, with towering trees dating back hundreds of years. Severe storms brought some of those trees down in the summer of 2014. But today we have several new trees on our property, thanks in part to the efforts of Grace member Lucy Ryan.

Lucy volunteers with a community campaign called “50 Trees for 50 Years.” This grassroots group replaces trees lost in storms or taken down by the city for various reasons. Lucy and Fr. Todd McDowell worked with 50 Trees and the City of Kirkwood to get several new trees planted on the church property over the past year.

Lucy is one of dozens of volunteers serving with 50 Trees. The non-profit group was founded in 2010 by Kirkwood resident Kathy Paulson, who wanted to protect and preserve the natural beauty of our area.

“Working with the earth is sort of a healing process,” Kathy said. “Seeing the changing landscape is rewarding. You feel like you’ve had an impact.”

Kathy, Lucy and other volunteers work throughout the year to identify properties along the streets, at schools and churches, or in parks that need trees replaced. They hold fundraisers at the city’s annual Greentree Festival and use the money to purchase trees from Jost Greenhouses in Farmington. The group hand-selects trees that are native or have a good chance of survival in our area.

Planting day is in October each year. Groups of volunteers spread out in the community to place the trees in their new homes, complete with mulch and sometimes special irrigation tools. After the planting is complete, the group celebrates with a picnic in Kirkwood Park (coordinated by Lucy Ryan).

But the group doesn’t stop there. Kathy keeps a log of all 360 trees the group has planted in its history and volunteers make follow-up visits throughout the years to do any needed maintenance and to make sure homeowners are properly caring for the trees.

“They’re our babies! We do the best we can to make it succeed,” Lucy said. “There are so many controversies in the world, but this is just positive. It’s just win-win-win for everyone.”

That long-term care and concern has led to a success rate of more than 90% of their plantings. And this year, 50 Trees was recognized with a Missouri Arbor Award of Excellence.

50 Trees planted six new trees on Grace’s property on October 31, 2015. Earlier this year, Grace received two plantings from 50 Trees, and an additional five trees from the city of Kirkwood, which replaced other trees lost by storms in 2014.

Trees have a significant place in the history of the city of Kirkwood. Kirkwood was the first planned suburb outside the city of St. Louis. It was established in 1853 on more than 300 acres of park land. Although the city owes much of its existence to the railroad industry, Kirkwood is also known as the Tree City.

A long period of drought took its toll on trees throughout the city in the mid-20th century. In 1961, the city sold thousands of trees to residents for $1 each as a way to replace the drought stricken trees. The Greentree Festival was created around that effort. Many of those trees, along with the Festival, are still around today to remind us of our connection to trees and nature.



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