Making the Shade

On a cold January morning, parents and volunteers from Timothy Road Elementary, New Urban Forestry, and the forestry program at UGA,  gathered to plant 36 trees on the campus of the elementary school. Prior to this, there was much debate about how many trees would be planted that day – 36 is a tall order. Even some of the veteran tree planters with NUF were skeptical about the goal of having them all in the ground by 4 pm. With the help of heavy machinery, and the dedication of the volunteers, including TRES principal, Kena Worthy, all 36 trees were planted by noon!

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This planting project is part of a grant program called, “Making the Shade.” It was created by the Georgia Forestry Commission in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service. The program provides assistance of up to $5,000 in matched contribution to provide tree shade for playscapes and school grounds.

 Shawn Doonan, Kena Worthy and 

Timothy Road has led fundraising projects to improve the playgrounds on the campus for several years, and while the equipment has been upgraded, trees were eliminated because they are often seen as hazardous or removal necessary to make room for the equipment. Playground equipment that is in direct sunlight can cause serious burns, it also increases the risk for sun exposure related skin conditions.

This project was particularly important for Shawn Doonan, co-owner of New Urban Forestry. His two children attend TRES as does Jessie McClellan, office manager for NUF’s son. Shawn passes by the campus every day, dropping his children off and driving out of his neighborhood.

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“I heard a segment on WUGA that featured Seth Hawkins from the Georgia Forestry Commission and Andrew Saunders from ACC Office of Sustainability. In it, they shared some startling facts regarding the extreme conditions our kids are exposed to on playgrounds without shade.  They went on to explain how the GFC's "Making The Shade Grant” intends to make our playgrounds more safe from UV exposure all the while incorporating an educational component to it, said Doonan.”

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"I've had an opportunity to see the ASP teachers huddled around an almost solitary source of shade in the playground and I see the kids come in from outside red in the face.  After hearing that segment, I was immediately motivated to apply for this grant on behalf of TRES.”

"Somehow, sparsely shaded landscapes seem to be the model for playgrounds here and I'm not sure why that is," Shawn Doonan wondered.  He adds, "I think most of us recognize a need for shade in our playgrounds but thankfully the GFC took the lead in creating a solution, and I was thrilled to enlist our business as a partner for this event.”   

The PTO provided additional matched funds for things like equipment rental, and members of the PTO, including the president, were in attendance to help with the planting. New Urban provided the mulch, labor, and equipment to facilitate the planting.

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For more information on the Making the Shade Grant, please visit the GFC website.