Kylie Qualls, a return volunteer for Reforest the Bluegrass, pictured above.
by Travis Rains
Healthy living does not stop at the individual, it expands to taking care of one’s community.
Over the past 17 years Reforest the Bluegrass has worked to improve the quality of life of Kentucky residents by addressing issues like water quality through planting more than 128,000 native tree seedlings.
Reforest the Bluegrass returned for its 18th year this past April, thanks to volunteers and the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government Division of Environmental Services. While Reforest the Bluegrass has spent the majority of the previous 17 years reforesting stream sides, this year the program looked to enrich the lives of members of the community in another way.
Jennifer Myatt, Environmental Outreach Specialist for the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government, said in an interview that this year Reforest the Bluegrass took place on April 9th near I-75 at1960 Brian Station Road. While this was not a traditional project location for Reforest the Bluegrass, Myatt noted the benefits that can be reaped by the community even at this year’s unique location.
“No matter where we plant the trees it helps the water quality as tree roots soak up the water and further help to enable water to be soaked into the ground which decreases storm water runoff.”
However, the benefits of this year’s project were not limited to only water quality, but were expanded to increasing the air quality of the nearby community, as the 3,000 native tree seedlings Reforest the Bluegrass and its 400 volunteers planted this year will serve as a buffer between the communities on Brian Station Road and I-75.
With more than 128,000 native tree seedlings already planted throughout the Bluegrass, with more scheduled to be planted, reforesting the bluegrass is no simple task. According to Myatt, it is the help of volunteers that makes Reforest the Bluegrass possible. In speaking on the nature of the volunteers, “It is a really good mix of people who have been doing it for years, and people who are new to Reforest the Bluegrass,” said Myatt.
Over the years Reforest the Bluegrass has attracted more than 15,000 volunteers and had the pleasure of hosting nearly 400 volunteers this year, one of whom is Kylie Qualls, a return volunteer who participated in her 3rd year of Reforest the Bluegrass. “I enjoy getting the opportunity to get outside and get my hands dirty,” said Qualls in an interview. With 3,000 native tree seedlings planted this year, there was clearly will see no shortage of hard work, though the work itself is not the only appeal of Reforest the Bluegrass.
Qualls elaborated further on what keeps her coming back to volunteer, “I like working alongside so many other people who are excited about the chance to make a difference.” Qualls hopes that as more volunteers come out to Reforest the Bluegrass, the word will spread and get more people involved. “I feel like I have become more personally involved in my community,” said Qualls, I can visit a park and see trees that I’ve planted and I feel proud that I worked to natural areas in my home state.”
Qualls spoke about the nature of work to be done at Reforest the Bluegrass, and noted that there is always something for everyone, even if planting trees does not appeal to some. “There are other volunteers who are involved in education about a wide variety of environmental topics.”
These topics include recycling, water conservation, composting and ways to be environmentally conscious consumers. Myatt also spoke about additional volunteer opportunities concerning a birdhouse building station at Reforest the Bluegrass.
Planters, builders and educators alike were all welcomed at the 18th year of Reforest the Bluegrass, which resulted in yet another resounding success for the Bluegrass and its residents.