On Saturday, April 3, local community group A Joint Highlands Arbor Day Committee partnered with Plant for the Planet! to celebrate State Arbor Day at the Douglass Community Center. 
Now in its fourth year, Plant for the Planet! has planted over 10 billion trees worldwide. The project’s major facilitator is the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), whose goals include reforestation, canopy rejuvenation, the prevention of erosion, the slowing of global warming, and biodiversity. 
Supporters in the Highlands this year included the Bonnycastle, Deer Park, Highlands-Douglass and Upper Highlands neighborhood associations, the Metro Council Districts of Tom Owen and Tina Ward-Pugh, individual donors and community businesses.  
Greeting visitors at the community center was a huge bunch of colorful, ribboned balloons, courtesy of the Blossom Shop. All visitors first signed the UNEP pledge to plant the trees given to them and nurse them to adulthood. The Master Gardeners (MGs) from the Jefferson County Cooperative Extension Service had a wealth of general information about tree planting on display, as well as specifics on the types of trees offered. 
Outdoors, volunteers from the Bellarmine University Biology Club and the neighborhood associations helped soak and wrap the trees in Courier-Journal bags under the supervision of Chief Forester Robert Bean. The seedlings were displayed in marked buckets – loaned from Horton’s Hardware – for a quick assessment of the types available. 
This year’s species were purchased from the Kentucky Division of Forestry. Canopy trees included white oak, bur oak, Shumard oak, water oak, cherry bark oak, mixed hickories, black walnut, pecan, black locust, river birch, Kentucky coffeetree, yellow poplar, white pine and bald cypress. Understory trees were dogwood, redbud and paw paw. Visitors lingered with the Chief Forester and the MGs to talk about trees over light refreshments and coffee, thanks to Heine Brothers’ at Douglass Loop, The Bakery at Sullivan University, the Highlands Kroger, and several neighborhood home cooks. 
In all, 291 visitors walked away with about 1,100 bare-root seedlings. The Olmsted Parks Conservancy received the extra trees the following Monday and by week’s end had arranged with its volunteers to plant 521 trees in Cherokee Park near Willow Pond and along Beargrass Creek. The black locusts and water oaks were placed privately. The remainder, an estimated 250 seedlings, went to Blackacre Nature Preserve.
Altogether, throughout Jefferson County and southern Indiana, 1,886 trees were planted this year. Kudos to all, but especially to Sarah Wolff with the Olmsted Parks Conservancy, Bill Hinklin and staff at the Douglass Community Center, and Chief Forester Robert Bean for helping us run such an enjoyable and informative tree giveaway. 
Celebrate State Arbor Day next year on April 2, 2011, at the Douglass Community Center. Join your neighbors for free trees and Plant for the Planet!