Greenwood will be 100 trees richer on Earth Day this year.
Started in 1970 to bring national attention to issues of conservation and environmental responsibility, Earth Day has become an annual chance to reflect on humanity’s relationship with and responsibility to the world we live in.
This Earth Day, April 22, Greenwood County is partnering with Dr. Benjamin E. Mays Elementary School to plant 100 loblolly pine trees, said county Litter Prevention Coordinator Maggie McMahon. Through Power Plant S.C., a statewide campaign to plant 3 million trees, McMahon said the partnership provides a learning experience for young students at the elementary school.
“We’re doing it with the kindergarteners because they’ll be at the school for five more years, so they can take pictures with the trees every year and watch them grown,” she said.
Greenwood had intended to do a similar thing for Earth Day 2020, but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit staff had to change plans. Now, McMahon said she hopes to harness this day of ecological reflection into something the children can enjoy and learn from.
“For a kindergartener, they’re not going to understand all the aspects of global warming, but they understand that planting a tree produces oxygen for them to breathe,” she said.
Closer to Uptown, the Greenwood County Master Gardeners hope to rally volunteers to work in the rain garden grown alongside the jury parking lot on the corner of Oak Avenue and Edgefield Street. Greenwood Master Gardener President Missy Lowery said the site is a great teaching tool, showing the importance of rain gardens at protecting the water table, guarding against erosion and attracting pollinators.
“The whole purpose of a rain garden is to create a bio-barrier,” she said. “This is really about an important, industrious area where the soil and plants are really doing a lot of work.”
When it rains, water draining from the jury parking lot runs into the low-lying area where the garden is. That water, containing fuel, oil and other chemicals from the parking lot, used to run freely and end up back in the water table, Lowery said. With the garden there, the soil and plants absorb the water and keep it from returning to the water table, filtering those chemicals in the process.
Rain gardens like this one can work anywhere, including in places where water drains around homes. The gardens break the cycle of flooding and drought, and the goal on or about Earth Day is to get volunteers out there to pull weeds and lay mulch in the garden.
The rain garden at the jury parking lot stemmed from a drive to stop spraying weed-killing chemicals in the area, said fellow master gardener Ann Barklow.
“Why put chemicals into a place you’re trying to filter chemicals out of,” she asked. “Instead, we can concentrate on plants that can take this type of environment.”
Lowery said she’s seen a growing interest in the science behind gardening — horticulture — and Earth Day marks the start of the year for the master gardeners’ efforts to bring more nature education to Greenwood.