By Jessie McClellan
A historic cemetery sits just on the edge of the campus of The University of Georgia with an entrance across from Sanford Stadium. Tucked away, many drive past daily without ever having stepped foot in this park-like resting place. The Oconee Hill Cemetery was added to the National Register of Historic Places List in 2013 in the areas of Architecture, Art, Landscape Architecture, Community Planning and Development, Ethnic Heritage: Black, Ethnic Heritage: Jewish, Engineering, and remains a grand example of the landscape architecture style of the 19th century.
The land for Oconee Hill Cemetery was purchased in 1855, complete with many graves that predate the opening of the cemetery. Gravesites were created across the campus before the opening, which highlighted the need for a public cemetery. The original 17 acres were purchased for $1000, but the site quickly expanded in 1898 to include an additional 82 acres. Many notable people are interred at Oconee Hill, including several former UGA presidents, governors, aviation pioneer Ben Epps, and Ricky Wilson, guitarist of the B-52’s.
One of the notable features of the cemetery is the landscape architecture, as recognized in the National Register. It was originally designed by a member of the UGA faculty, James Camak, and features a park-like setting that is reminiscent of botanical gardens and arboretums. Oconee Hill’s architecture demonstrates styles consistent with the features of the Rural Cemetery Movement of the time. Unfortunately, little has been done over the years to preserve the trees and landscape.
A group of community members formed the Friends of the Oconee Hill Cemetery in 1999. One of their major accomplishments, among many others, includes acquiring federal grant funding from the Historic Preservation Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (with the help of Athens-Clarke County) for the management of the trees on the property. This grant funding, which is matched by donations by the friends group and others, will allow for Phase Two of a project to preserve and protect the trees on the grounds and replace trees that have been removed.
Phase 1: a tree Inventory, completed in 2015, was also grant-funded. The inventory identified 40 species of trees of 563 trees inventoried with an average diameter of 20 inches. This does not include the forest on the periphery which averages 127 trees per acre. The inventory found that many of the trees had been poorly pruned and/or were diseased. It also determined many invasive species on the property, including English ivy and privet.
Work was completed in early 2017 on the tree maintenance plan for the burial ground. Phase 2 prioritizes high risk issues that could cause damage to existing markers. This phase involved the removal of dead and hazardous trees and trees with dead limbs, along with reducing the risk of dead limb failures. These projects will help to preserve some of the mature canopy throughout the grounds. To meet inventory recommendations, the invasive plants must also be removed so that native species will be allowed to thrive.
This urban forest is a vital asset to the Athens community. The management of the trees is essential to preserving this historic burial ground, as well as allowing for future interments, as it is still an active cemetery. New Urban Forestry is honored to be a part of the continued efforts to maintain this historic landmark.
For more information on The Oconee Hill Cemetery, please visit the official website or see Oconee Hill Cemetary of Athens, Georgia, Volume I, written by Charlotte Marshall. See the video for a more in depth look.
This preservation project has been financed in part with Federal funds from the National Park Service, U.S. Department of Interior, through the historic Preservation Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. However, the contents, opinions, and recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of the Interior or the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, nor does the mention of trade names, commercial products or consultants constitute endorsement or recommendation by these agencies. This program receives Federal financial assistance for identification and protection of historic properties. Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, as amended, the U.S. Department of Interior prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, gender or disability in its federally assisted programs. If you believe you have been discriminated against in any program, activity , or facility as described above, or if you desire further information, please write to: Office for Equal opportunity, National Park Service, 1849 C Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20240.
Waste wood: Wood Arts Show
When we talk about urban forestry, we often focus on the best-practices management of our existing community trees. In addition, we are aware that our urban forests bring many environmental and economic benefits to cities, including: reduced air-conditioning expense, sunlight absorption and ultraviolet light reduction, air cooling, rainwater absorption and improved stormwater management, and improved biodiversity.
In short: urban forests improve the microclimate and air quality of our towns and cities.
Economic benefits associated with properly managed trees include increased land, property, and rental value. Well-maintained trees also encourage increased residential, commercial and public investments. There are also many social and medical benefits to consider.
What we often, however, forget to talk about when discussing the urban forest is the value of the wood from trees that are removed during sound urban forest management. What do we do with this “waste” wood? Much of it does become mulch and compost. But what other options exist? Is there something we can do with this wood that adds to, or retains, the value and beauty of the tree after it is removed? Something that may continue to benefit the community as well?
Timber and the timber industry have long been recognized as vitally important to the Southeast. Historically, our pine trees provided naval stores and products like turpentine and the wood for tall ship masts. Live oak wood provided curved timbers for framing the massive hulls of large ships. And the Southeast continues to be an important source of wood, lumber and wood pulp. But we are less recognized for what wood can be when transformed with the eye of an artist and the hand of a skilled craftsperson.
Urban wood, because of unique characteristics as a result of growth habits, accessibility to city artisans and furniture makers, and the relationship of the artist to an individual tree or place, is helping to revive wood art in the Southeast. Urban wood is both “reclaimed” (re-purposed from old buildings and structures) and “upcycled” (created from newly cut urban trees).
Wood works: An Art Exhibition, is a show that will display the work of more than 35 wood artists and craftspersons, including furniture makers, fine artists and wood turners. The show will run between Jan. 20 and Feb. 17 at the Oconee Cultural Arts Foundation (OCAF).
Though these artists and craftspersons will not utilize only urban wood, it does have a significant place as a medium, and even as a theme, in the work of some of the artists. Some of the furniture makers, for instance, strongly emphasize the materials. Don Bundrick, for example, builds furniture directly from branches, twigs and bark. Other craftspersons feature natural edge slabs or reclaimed lumber. Still others mix wood and metal, such as the “industrial” furniture of Jeff Walker.
Urban wood, as a result of a renewed interest in wood art and furniture in the Southeast — as as demonstrated in the show — will continue to gain importance and recognition. And as it does so, it will, like the trees in our urban forest, add value back to the community.
As the cooler fall weather moves in and changes our landscapes from summer green to shades of yellow, gold, and orange; you may begin to see one persistent pest that refuses to give up the green. In fact, it refuses to give up at all. Under the cloak of your trees’ leaves, mistletoe has found itself a home. Whether it be on the humble Hackberry or your prized Texas Red Oak, it has been growing—pulling its moisture from the host.
One of nature’s most harmful “bird gifts”, mistletoe seeds, move from one landscape to another looking for that perfect arboreal environment. The two and three year old wood on Cedar Elms and Hackberry trees are prime real estate, but a few other local species will do in a pinch. Once the location is right, the seed germinates and a strange, opportunistic root-like structure finds an opening in the bark and taps in to the tree’s vascular system. Mistletoe becomes a tree squatter, ready to take the neighborhood.
How do we love our trees? Aside from just giving them a big hug from time to time? There are things you can do to show your tree love that will sustain its life, beyond just regular pruning and maintenance.
We all know that trees need water. But how much water and when? I can’t tell you that. But an arborist looking at your trees can. Are they drought tolerant species? Was it planted in the last 2 years? What is the soil like surrounding the tree? Getting the right amount of water (and seriously, not too much) is one of the first ways to make sure your trees know you care.
Speaking of soil…
What does an arborist know about soil? Don’t forget that tree roots extend far below the surface. Trees start from the ground up. To hug the entire tree, you have to get your hands dirty.
One of the biggest dangers to our trees is soil compaction. Do you park your car under the tree? Do your kids play under a particular tree every day? This compaction can damage the roots of the tree. Your tree may look fine now, but compacted soil can eventually lead to insect infestation or stress which can lead to vulnerability months or years down the road. Improving the soil surrounding trees can rejuvenate ailing trees and prolong the life of your investment.
One soil-improvement method that might be recommended by an arborist is radial trenching. This is the fancy way of saying: digging holes (in a radius) and filling them with nutrient-dense soil. This calculated process is designed to aerate and supply nutrients and prolong the life of the tree.
Do you spray pesticides on your tomato patch? Did you fertilize your turfgrass? Your whole landscape can affect the trees in and around it. They all share the common soil. This is one reason why an arborist should help when planning what to plant and where. We can help plan when treatments are appropriate and will not be harmful to your trees and shrubs, and also how pruning and treatment of trees can affect the other plants as well.
Planning your landscape with the longevity of trees and plants in mind with the help of an arborist can prevent problems that might occur years down the road and show your trees that you love them for many years.
New Urban Forestry is excited to offer a customer referral program. We recognize that our success is based on your support. We would like to give back to those who have shared their positive experiences with their friends and neighbors about our services over the years. As a benefit to you, your friends, your neighbors, and the broader Athens community, we would like to offer a gift to show our gratitude.
We are aware that often you receive little in return when a tree is removed. We believe in the future of trees in Athens. We hope as a business to not only maintain the existing tree canopy in our community, but also prepare for the future tree canopy. For every tree that we remove, we hope that an additional tree is being planted to replace it. We’d like to help in this process by giving our customers a tree to plant.
How it works
If an existing New Urban Forestry successfully refers a new customer, New Urban Forestry will give the existing customer a thank you gift. Please let us know if someone has referred you.
What is a Successful Referral?
A successful referral is when a new customer mentions an existing customer by name and both customers have had work completed by New Urban Forestry.
What is the gift?
New Urban Forestry will donate to the referring customer one 3 gallon tree that is drought and disease resistant and appropriate for our region. If you do not have room for a tree, or do not need a tree, we will give you a t-shirt designed specifically for our customers. For each t-shirt we give away or sell we will donate $5.00 to the Athens Clarke County Community Tree Council to assist with area-wide tree plantings.
Thank you for your business and your support!
When I was in college at UGA one of my favorite things about living in Athens was driving into town late at night after Thanksgiving break, the end of a long drive back from visiting my parents in Virginia . Every year, I would drive down Clayton Street first thing, even if it wasn’t on my way, and I marveled at the sparkling lights in the trees, newly lit for the holidays. It was beautiful. And it reminded me of why I chose to live in Athens, so far away from my family.
Trees provide such a sense of place. My final year of college, I lived on the cobblestone portion of Finley Street, home to another famous Athens tree.
Would Athens even be on the map if it weren’t for the Tree that Owns Itself? (of course) That particular tree doesn’t just put Athens on the map for something other than music, but it also represents the spirit of the town.
When you plant trees, you might not be thinking about who will decorate them with lights in the future, or even if you want to leave your money to it when you die, but you are creating a history of the land and defining a sense of place for future generations to recognize as home.
As the climate talks in Paris come to a close, it’s hard to ignore the chatter about greenhouse gases, carbon footprints and emission levels. One method that some people are using to combat the rising level of greenhouse gases is through carbon offsetting through tree planting.
On a large scale, companies pay to have others, often non-profits, plant trees on their behalf in order to offset their emissions. According to an article in The Guardian, “Carbon offset schemes allow individuals and companies to invest in environmental projects around the world in order to balance out their own carbon footprints.”
But this leads to questions on an individual level — will planting trees in my backyard really have an effect? Or, how many trees do I really need to plant? Can I do my own carbon offsetting?
There are several calculators available like this one or this one which will calculate offset for you. So for example, if you drive a gas car that gets 26 mpg and on average 12,000 miles per year, this calculator recommends you plant 9 trees to offset the emissions from your car. This puts into perspective real tangible ways to help the environment. I can plant 9 trees. That seems feasible.
New Urban Forestry is not a carbon offsetting program, and we can’t tell you exactly how many trees you personally should plant. We CAN however help you to plant your trees. We can offer advice on the care of your trees and also which trees are sustainable in the Athens and surrounding areas.
New Urban Forestry often is called on to remove trees due to safety concerns; we are charged with removing a valuable resource from our local community. We want to be able to replant those trees.
Together we can continue to give Athens a unique sense of place, and also create a more sustainable world for our future.
Athens Georgia area tree service, New Urban Forestry, agreed to adopt and manage the trees in the Wilcox Triangle in five points. New Urban Forestry is working with Keep Athens Clarke County Beautiful and local resident Dick Field to manage and preserve the trees in the Wilcox triangle in five points. New Urban Forestry will prune the trees for structure and prune to mitigate hazard and limb failure. New Urban Forestry also plans on delivering and spreading mulch around newly planted trees to conserve water and regulate soil temperature, as well as providing for better soil structure.
Athens Arborists from New Urban Forestry believe it is important and vital to assess tree structure for hazard. Cavities as a result of previous mechanical wounds or poor pruning practices are not necessarily rated as a high hazard. Certified arborists, including Athens Arborists from New Urban Forestry Tree Service, can evaluate cavities for mechanical strength and rate cavities for hazard values as low, moderate, high, or severe. A formula for assessing strength loss of cavities is used to determine these values. Many tree services will recommend tree removal as a result of perceiving cavities or other defects in a tree with out specific evaluation techniques or the proper tools. If you have a concern about tree hazard remember to call a certified arborist to assess the tree for structure. There are signs to be aware of that may cause tree hazard or tree failure and should be evaluated by a certified arborist: root loss, root decay, fungal conks on root flares or trunk, cavities, damage to root system as a result of construction practices or excavation, significant dieback in the tree, etc. Also, Many architectural defects in trees can be mitigated with structure and over extended limb reduction pruning, and/or cabling.
It is important, however, to have a certified arborist inspect your tree for health and hazard as not all trees that are suspected as being hazardous are in fact a high hazard and sometimes trees that are perceived as being fine and healthy can have inherent risks that may be overlooked because of a nice healthy appearing crown.