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Every tree tells dry, hot story at Bernheim

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By Lyndsey Gilpin

 CLERMONT - Dry, hard dirt — parched from the lack of rain in Kentucky recently — didn’t stop Bernheim Arboretum employees and Governor’s Scholar students from working up a sweat to dig holes on Tuesday morning. 

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As part of a partnership between Bernheim and LG&E called “Every Tree Tells a Story,” 57 trees were planted in the forest. 

LG&E began the “Plant for the Planet” program several years ago. It is modeled after the United Nations Environment Program’s (UNEP) Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign. The purpose of the global effort is to bring individuals together to plant on billion trees each year. The LG&E program began after the wind and ice storms hit Louisville in 2008 and 2009, respectively. 

“The storms really decimated the tree population,” Brian Phillips, spokesperson for LG&E, said. “We’ve planted about 20,000 trees in three years.”

Grants between $500 and $5,000 are offered through the company each year for rural and urban projects through nonprofit and local government agencies. Olmstead Parks of Louisville and some council districts in Kentucky have participated in the program so far, and LG&E accepts applications every fall (for more information, visit www.lge-ku/com/plantfortheplanet).

The “Every Tree Tells a Story” program is Bernheim’s second project funded by LG&E. The Kentucky Governor’s Scholars from Bellarmine University participated in the public tree-planting event yesterday in the Children’s Play Garden. 

“These students are from all over the state,” Amy Landon, volunteer coordinator for Bernheim, said. “We’ve been working with the Governor’s Scholar program for years, and this event just happened to fall at the same time, so we invited them.” 

Tom Block, great-grandson of founder Isaac Wolfe Bernheim, addressed the students directly about the project. 

“Welcome to this great legacy of my great-grandfather,” he said. “What you’re doing is going to keep the legacy going. It’s great we can start to replenish these areas.”

Many students described tree-planting as a “new experience,” and were worried they wouldn’t be “good at it,” but everyone was able to take a turn digging in the dirt to make way for white oaks, paw-paws, and various other tree species. Several other Bernheim visitors were able to take part in the planting as well. 

James Moody, a horticulturist, spoke to the students about the process of planting trees and the impacts they make on the forest. The “Every Tree Tells a Story” exhibit will feature signs at the base of most of the trees, telling different stories about each species.

“I encourage you visit your trees and tell this story to your children, friends and spouses over the years,” he said.