TREES PLEASE: The Wormsloe Tree Replacement Project ensures a sustainable future for the iconic Avenue of Oaks

Savannah is known for its gorgeous tree canopy, which contributes much to the charming appeal of the city. The historic district is abundant with moss-draped oaks and blooming magnolias, and one of the most popular places among tree lovers is Wormsloe Historic Site. Here the iconic Avenue of Oaks, which dates back to the 1890s, attracts multitudes of locals and tourists alike as an idyllic location for wedding, portrait and landscape photography. A visit to Wormsloe is a must for nature lovers and history buffs. The outstanding oaks need upkeep, however, to permit visitors to enjoy them for generations to come, which is why Savannah Tree Foundation has been working diligently over the last few years to preserve Wormsloe’s amazing allée of trees.

For the last three years, STF has engaged in the Wormsloe Tree Replacement Project to replace trees along the Avenue of Oaks that had been lost to age, storm damage and disease. Various community organizations and individuals — including the Rotary Club of Savannah, STF, Wormsloe Historic Site, SavATree, Savannah Country Day School, the Isle of Hope Marina, Friends of Wormsloe State Historic Site, the Garden Club of Savannah and more than 100 community volunteers — came together in 2021 to start the project.

click to enlarge TREES PLEASE: The Wormsloe Tree Replacement Project ensures a sustainable future for the iconic Avenue of Oaks
Photo by Davis Clem

“It was an initiative by the Rotary Club Savannah, [led by] Marjorie Young, who was president at the time,” said Zoe Rinker, STF’s executive director.

Rinker had also been in conversation with Gretchen Greminger, the Wormsloe Historic Site manager, who was planning a new visitor center there to lessen traffic on the avenue.

“We knew that there had been upwards of 70 trees that had been removed either through storms or infrastructure needs throughout the years,” said Rinker.

These conversations were taking place during the COVID-19 pandemic, when lockdowns reduced visitation.

“We thought with the stressor of the cars getting taken away, now is a great time to work on replacing some of those trees. It started with 30 trees in 2021, and we did a big ceremony. Then we planted another group in February of ‘22. We started with 50 trees then. In ‘23 we did another 10 and then we’ll do the final 10 this year,” said Rinker. “As we [plant] more, we’re also caring for the trees and plants at the core, mulching and pruning . . . The first two or three years are important for tree survival, so we’re really making sure that we’re getting these trees to a point where they can be sustainable moving forward and [continue to] contribute to the avenue.”

click to enlarge TREES PLEASE: The Wormsloe Tree Replacement Project ensures a sustainable future for the iconic Avenue of Oaks
Photo by Davis Clem

The final planting will take place on Saturday, Jan. 27 at 1 p.m., and the public is welcome to come and participate.

“We’re going to have an introduction and ceremony at the beginning, and then we’ll split into groups. We’ll have people who can plant the remaining ten trees. We’ll have a group that’s working to mulch all the 50 trees that will be up and down the avenue. . . We’re [going to] have a little celebration afterwards at 3 p.m. at the new visitor center with drinks and cookies to celebrate everyone who’s come out and helped plant the avenue,” she said.

Rinker encourages community members to take part in this special planting event:

click to enlarge TREES PLEASE: The Wormsloe Tree Replacement Project ensures a sustainable future for the iconic Avenue of Oaks
Photo by Davis Clem

“It’s a really unique opportunity to be part of history. Wormsloe is one of the most visited sites at Georgia State Parks. Thousands of people every year come around to see these trees and this really iconic part of Georgia history. It’s a fun opportunity to be a part of that but also to learn about tree care and how to plant a tree and take care of trees. . . It’s also just a great time to get to know other tree lovers. . . It’s a multipurpose event for people and we’d love to have everyone come out.”

She believes that it is vitally important to preserve and protect Savannah’s famous trees, which are an indelible part of the fabric of this community.

“What is Savannah without its trees? It’s such an iconic part of our community, our community that’s really connected to nature. It’s not just the downtown trees that everyone knows. It’s also trees throughout our community and understanding that trees are living things. While it seems like they’ve been here forever, a lot of these trees have only been here a couple hundred years. . . So we have to make sure that we’re being good stewards of the trees we have but also planting the trees of tomorrow. Most of the trees we enjoy, someone intentionally planted them 50 to 100 years ago. So if we want people to enjoy trees in the future, it’s our responsibility to continue planting them now.”

The Wormsloe Tree Replacement Project is one of several ways STF works to maintain and contribute to Savannah’s trees, and the organization has many touch points with the community for anyone who’s interested in getting involved.

“This is just one of many planting events we have. This is the middle of peak planting season. Planting season in Georgia is November through March. [People] can go to our website and find upcoming tree planting events throughout Chatham County. They can come and attend tree walk events we have and just really engage with us on a more educational level. And of course, they can always support us financially with a donation online or through a check,” said Rinker.

To learn more about Savannah Tree Foundation, visit savannahtree.org.

Chantel Britton

Chantel Britton is a compelling storyteller with an ever-growing curiosity. She's built a rewarding writing career for herself in addition to serving five years as a Public Affairs Officer in the U.S. Army Reserve. She's an NPR nerd with a deep passion for all things travel, sustainable living and adventure. She...
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