Private group plants trees near city streets

Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Bryan Haltermann, the chairman of Trees for Augusta, stands near trees that were planted along Jones Street. Trees for Augusta depends on private donations to plant trees along streets and medians throughout Augusta.

A row of Chinese pistache trees lined Jones Street's 1200 block in downtown Augusta, but then stopped abruptly like an unfinished sentence.


Bryan Haltermann drove by them every day on his way to work.

"There were just a lot of places like this where street trees didn't exist or where there had been a planting, but it ended," he said. "I know government doesn't have a lot of money for trees."

So, in 2009, Haltermann started Trees for Augusta, a group that raises money to plant trees on city streets and medians, places where they will be seen.

They raised $9,000 and in February 2010 added seven more Chinese pistache trees and 10 crape myrtles to the Jones Street row.

Early this year, the group planted 18 sugar maples along the Henry Street median in Summerville and will plant six more dogwood trees there this fall, a $25,000 project.

"Trees knit a neighborhood together," Haltermann said. "No matter how good looking the houses are, if it doesn't have trees, it doesn't feel finished."

Roy Simkins, the chairman of the Augusta-Richmond County Tree Commission and a Trees for Augusta member, said Augusta's urban forest is an important part of keeping the city pretty.

"Unfortunately, urban trees have a harder time than those out it in forest," he said. "There's always something fooling with them, whether it's underground utilities, or overhead power lines, impacts from automobiles or compacted soil."

As far back as the 1800s, planting and maintaining trees was something the city did, Simkins said. After the great fire of 1916 burned several downtown blocks, trees on lower Broad, Greene and Telfair streets were replanted as part of the recovery program.

Since the 1980s, though, Augusta's budget has gotten tighter and tighter, Simkins said. In 1996, Augusta-Richmond County consolidated, expanding landscaping efforts countywide without expanding funding.

Recently, the recession has taken its toll.

Sam Smith, the operations manager for Augusta-Richmond County trees and landscape, said his division is a place where a lot gets done with limited resources.

"When I came back to work here is 2008, we had enough money to plant rye grass on the main city boulevards ... we could also plant trees and take on large projects," he said. "Now, we rely a lot on public-private partnerships, where they provide the money and we provide labor."

Smith said he welcomes any person or group wanting to help beautify the city.

Haltermann said Trees for Augusta expects to operate on private donations. The group coordinates with the city to obtain permission to plant on rights of way.

"Trees are something everyone gets to enjoy. Everyone gets in their car and drives by them," Haltermann said. "Trees can also determine how desirable an area is. It's an appearance issue that translates into economics."

Learn more online

Visit Trees for Augusta at