Friends Of Trees Celebrates 40 Years Of Greening Chatham

By: Benjamin Thomas

Topics: Conservation

DeeDee Holt and the longest serving board member, Eunice Burley, look through the Friends of Trees archives in front of Eldredge Public Library.  BENJAMIN THOMAS PHOTO

CHATHAM – In early May, Chatham Friends of Trees celebrated its 40th year as a nonprofit by holding an Arbor Day event at the community center.

This event was a good opportunity for DeeDee Holt, a long-serving member of Friends of Trees, and other locals like Stephanie Ellis, the executive director at Wildcare, to inform the community on the importance of trees to the environment and wildlife.

For the last 40 years, Chatham Friends of Trees has lead by example in carrying out this message. When the organization was started in 1978, its founders, Larry Munson and Alice Hiscock, took the initiative to bring back Chatham’s greenery after much of it was lost to development and the infamous Dutch Elm Disease.

Beginning with the planting of trees that stand on Main Street to this day, Alice Hiscock then played a major role in creating Nickerson State Park in Brewster.

Since then, the nonprofit has gone on to play their part in the planting of trees in Veterans Park, on Main Street, School Street, Fox Hill Road, and dozens of other iconic Chatham locations. Through these projects and other memorial tree contributions, Chatham Friends of Trees has planted an estimated 600 to 800 trees throughout the town.

More recently, the organization was asked to help with the town’s rehabilitation of Cockle Cove Beach. To achieve this they donated $800 worth of trees and aligned them with the newly restored waterways that feed into the beach. These contributions to the town’s forestry are  no doubt one of the main reasons Chatham has been officially designated a Massachusetts Tree City every year since 2013.

Holt also emphasized that Friends of Trees, along with other similar groups, have provided Chatham with a “pretty healthy tree inventory.” Nevertheless, they look to continue searching for “places and opportunities where we can improve the tree canopy,” she said.

As they continue this ongoing search, Friends of Trees has expanded their means of connecting further with the public through their smartphone mobile app. Recently launched, this app can inform someone of the species and history of any given tree that is photographed throughout Chase Park. The group has also put together a walking trail of notable trees along Main Street, available at the chamber of commerce information booth and on its website.

Beyond planting and memorializing trees, however, the nonprofit takes pride in the services they provide with their educational grants. This program donates money to local schools and organizations interested in educating people on the science and value of trees. With preference given to the Monomoy and Lighthouse Charter schools, Friends of Trees is willing to consider granting money to any kind of teacher training, student education, or field trip that focuses on the importance of wildlife.

“I wish more people knew about it, because surprisingly it’s hard to give money away,” said Holt.

As waves of environmental movements and groups come and go, Chatham Friends of Trees has remained an integral part of the lower Cape’s natural preservation for the past 40 years. Holt attributes this to the simple fact that “people in Chatham and the Cape have a genuine appreciation for the environment and how it makes us a very special place.”

“Whether you're talking about all the water we have around us, the greenery, or the wildlife,” said Holt, “Cape people just seem to have an extraordinary high appreciation for the wildlife that we have here, and for the diversity of it.”