Saturday, December 7th 2013 was game day for the Conestee Community and they stepped up to the plate and shined in a big way! Through a partnership between Keep Greenville County Beautiful and Greenville County, the Conestee community was the recipient of a Palmetto Pride Tree Grant. Over 30 community volunteers gathered to plant 68 trees and shrubs, and picked up (at least) 12 bags of roadside litter in honor of South Carolina Arbor Day.
Identified in the recently adopted Conestee Community Plan, this community improvement project focused on beautifying Conestee Road by planting street trees, landscaping around community welcome signs, and picking up litter. I believe that the real success of this event can be measured by the amount of volunteers that participated with over 30 local residents, 6 local businesses, 4 non-profit organizations, and 3 local government agencies donating their time and resources. I would like to thank Victory Chapel Baptist church for bringing out the volunteers, Thomas Brothers Landscaping for the beautiful shrubs, Old Mill Café for the delicious hotdog lunch, Dunkin Donuts for the coffee, Greenville Turf and Tractor for the use of the Gator, Trees Greenville for technical support, Belmont Fire District for clean-up and watering, Greenville Rec for auguring holes and providing tools, and the Conestee Foundation for mulch and much more. I hope I’m not missing anyone so thanks to everyone who helped out!
It was this broad-based community involvement that made this event so tremendous. Yes, the trees and shrubs will help to beautify this neighborhood for many years to come, and the stately community welcome signs will help to establish a positive community identity, but they are just vehicles to accomplish the greater goals of developing community pride. As everyone experienced first-hand on Saturday, the pride generated from volunteering your time, resources, and expertise and by rolling up your sleeves to plant a tree, in the end, becomes about much, much more than the tangible results of just planting a tree. In many ways this event revived the roots of the larger “Community Tree”, a tree that has many leaves and branches that reach out far and wide, but just needed a little nurturing to reestablish the roots so that it could begin to grow and thrive once again.
In community planning, it is our job to interpret the community’s vision and then facilitate, organize, empower the community to take action. It is very rewarding to help plan and organize such a significant event, but seeing the proud faces of those residents who participated, and witnessing relationships strengthening among residents and local organizations was the true reward for me, for it is the strong relationships that will empower the community and enable sustained success. December 7th 2013 was a great day to be a planner and public servant in Greenville County!
Yes, this event was about much more than planting trees and picking up litter, it was about building community pride and establishing the roots for future community-led initiatives. I, for one, look forward to seeing the fruit of which this resilient and revived “Community Tree” will bear.