Students gathered to plant trees in front of the Pace Alumni Center, Fri. March 10. Lucas Bales

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Those that were outside the Pace Alumni Center at Emerald Hill this past Friday afternoon may have been treated to a gathering of environmental-conscience volunteers preparing to plant trees.

The reason behind this was in part an Arbor Day celebration for Austin Peay and in part a local effort by the Cumberland River Compact to improve water quality in Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) watershed areas.

The sloping Emerald Hill is a notorious flood zone, not to mention the university campus as a whole is perfectly situated between the Cumberland and Red Rivers. Given the local landscape, the local environment has become a victim of harsh run-off and sedimentation.

The solution? The Cumberland River Compact, which aims primarily to promote water quality, worked to get federal funding via the TVA to plant trees across campus in the worst of these flood zones. The grant allows the non-profit to hire contractors and plant more than numerous native trees at APSU.

The event Friday, however, didn’t rely on contractors and opted to host a volunteer celebration with 26 out of 91 trees reserved for the occasion.

The forestry program manager for the Cumberland River Compact, Rehgan Pierce, elaborated on the event, stating that it was “one of the first big planting projects we have done outside of Davidson county.”

Pierce also stated that “it feels great to be able to offer this and provide these trees and provide the wildlife shade and provide this tree canopy and bring in those pollinators. Just to get to see the impact that these trees will have long term is really nice.”

Up until this point, the organization has been based and located in private Nashville property. Here, they plan to plant 500,000 trees by 2050.

They also host a variety of other projects to improve the water quality including stream bank restoration and cleanups along the Cumberland River basin.

In Clarksville specifically, this is one of the first big steps in the right direction towards the local environmental concerns alongside an Adopt-a-Stream program.

Joe Chapman, green infrastructure program manager for the group, confirmed that “Both sides are very happy with how this turned out so I’m sure that we’ll continue with this partnership and get some more trees planted in Clarksville.”

As for future projects and tree-plantings in the area, Austin Peay and the Cumberland River Compact are working to organize more tree-plantings, bank stabilization projects, and educational signage work.