Volunteers mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day with North Nashville tree planting event

Posted at 7:18 AM, Jan 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-20 09:02:19-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Dozens of volunteers gathered on the Fisk University campus this week to help plant dozens of trees in an event that Fisk leaders said continued the university's history of social justice.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Day event was hosted by the Nashville Tree Foundation, and was the final push in the organization's months-long effort to plant more trees in North Nashville, an area that has fewer trees than any other part of Davidson County.

"The city is a beautiful city with trees everywhere, but this area is almost like a desert, there are trees, but not many," Fisk University Interim President Vann Newkirk said.

"It's about 10% lower canopy cover in North Nashville compared to other communities in Nashville," Nashville Tree Foundation Director Andrew Bell explained, adding that the lack of trees can have a real, tangible impact on communities.

"Where there are fewer trees, there are higher rates of obesity, cardiovascular disease and mental health issues. You really can lay a map over an urban area, and where you have low canopy cover it corresponds directly to these poor health conditions," Bell said.

That's why the Nashville Tree Foundation has focused its recent efforts on North Nashville, in an effort to correct decades of environmental inequality.

"The initiative included planting over 300 trees in North Nashville, and distributing another 300 for people to go home and plant themselves, Bell said.

The initiative that was capped off with Monday's tree-planting event, one that Fisk Leaders said continues the legacy of the University's civil rights pioneers.

"They were dedicated not just to social justice for people, but they wanted to make sure communities had the same kind of equality. and that equality meant quality of life and quality of air," Newkirk said.