Urban forest reaches final planting

A six-year project of planting trees where flooded homes once stood is coming to a close.

Volunteers will do the final major tree planting in the urban forest this Saturday in an area of Franklin that used to have more than 60 homes.

After the 2008 flood, 62 homes near South Street, Hemphill Street, Dunn Street and Jackson Street were bulldozed. Throughout the past six years, volunteers have planted more than 2,000 trees, in an effort led by Franklin resident Jim Crane. Twice a year, dozens of volunteers from residents to Franklin College students have helped plant about 25 species of trees and spread mulch in the urban forest, Crane said.

“It’s really gratifying that we’ve gotten the support for the activity that we’ve had,” Crane said. “It’s been a really gratifying situation.”

Crane estimated the urban forest has about 4,000 trees now, combined with the trees that were already planted, he said. Some of the first seedlings planted in the urban forest are now 6 feet tall or higher, he said.

Crane said he thought the urban forest would be the best way to repurpose the land since the trees will absorb water during hard rains and create more oxygen for the ecosystem.

“I’m really pleased with the reception that it’s had by the entire community,” Crane said.

The city will be able to reap the benefits of the forest for decades to come, Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness said. The city’s parks and recreation department will be maintaining the forest from now on.

Crane said he has additional plans for the forest, he said. At least three wooden benches have been placed throughout the forest, but another four limestone benches will be installed within the next month, Crane said. In June, the Johnson County Public Library will open a new story walk along the paths in the urban forest, which will encourage families to walk and read a book along the trail.

This fall, Crane will work with volunteers to move a few trees so they can fill in blank patches along the trail, he said.

And he wants to add a pergola in a spot that overlooks the courthouse and the forest, and provides a spot for receptions, meetings or people to visit, he said.

How to Help

The final 250 trees will be planted into the urban forest, south of downtown Franklin, on Saturday morning. Here’s how you can help:

What: Volunteer to plant trees and clean up the forest near Dunn and South streets

When: 9 a.m. Saturday, training session on planting techniques, planting starts after the training

What to bring: Tools will be provided, but bringing your own shovel or rake would be helpful