published Sunday, October 13th, 2013

Planting trees brings 'renewal' to tornado-ravaged Apison

Brenna Kelly and John Moyer plant a redbud tree during a service day with Replanting Apison, a project to help restore the landscapes devastated by the April 27, 2011, tornadoes, on Saturday in Apison. Led by project manager Mariah Prescott, the project brought around 80 volunteers together to plant 250 native trees.
Brenna Kelly and John Moyer plant a redbud tree during a service day with Replanting Apison, a project to help restore the landscapes devastated by the April 27, 2011, tornadoes, on Saturday in Apison. Led by project manager Mariah Prescott, the project brought around 80 volunteers together to plant 250 native trees.
Photo by Maura Friedman.

Around 70 volunteers worked Saturday morning to undo the scars of the April 2011 tornadoes.

"When you drive around Apison and Ringgold, it seems like everything is back to normal except the trees," Mariah Prescott said.

She heads up the Replant Apison project, which aims to plant hundreds of trees in the path of bent, broken and dead ones left by the 2011 tornado that hit Apison and surrounding areas. She got the idea from her friend, Erica Lewis, who started a similar project in Ringgold, Ga.

In four hours, Prescott said volunteers planted 225 young trees, ranging between 5 and 6 feet tall. All the trees were donated to the project, and they included native Tennessee species such as dogwood, red maple and red oak.

Gene Hyde, urban forester for Chattanooga, went out with the group. He said replanting where the trees were so devastated has many practical benefits -- energy reduction, stormwater interception and pollution reduction, for instance.

But also, the Replant Apison project has a very human element.

"I think there's a sense of, maybe, renewal," Hyde said

He said replanting the trees is "one of the last pieces" in recovery from the disaster of April 2011.

Prescott agrees.

"Trees are more than just something you look at when you drive by," she said. Many trees represent an emotional attachment. They often represent stability, happy memories and security.

Not to mention life.

Hyde and Prescott said the sight of healthy trees can make a big difference in the perception of a community, versus the reminder of the death -- of both trees and humans -- the tornado brought.

"It's kind of an uplifting thing to see the trees in great shape," Hyde said.

Prescott hopes the trees can be the nail in the coffin for Apison's tornado recovery.

"I can't wait until 10 years down the road, to go down there and see those trees towering over me," she said.

Contact staff writer Alex Green at agreen@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6731.

about Alex Green...

Alex Green joined the Times Free Press staff full-time in January 2014 after completing the paper's six-month, general assignment reporter internship. Alex grew up in Dayton, Tenn., which is also where he studied journalism at Bryan College. He graduated from Rhea County High School in 2008. During college, Alex covered the city of Graysville and the town of Spring City for The Herald-News. As editor-in-chief of Bryan College's student news group, Triangle, Alex reported on ...

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