Planting hope: East Nashville tornado response

After the recent tornado devastated his neighborhood, one east Nashville resident decided to put his own expertise to work by leading a replanting effort.

Through Micah Puncochar’s efforts and the amazing community response, 85 trees were planted in his neighborhood in mid-April. Talk about Nashville Strong!

Read more about Micah’s service and the incredible community generosity in our Q&A below. Trees were planted in the Rosebank/Lockeland Springs area of east Nashville. This story was also highlighted through local news on WSMV News4. Inspired to lead a neighborhood planting in your own community? Check out the Neighborhood Planting Captain program.

Trees ready to be planted!

Q: How long have you been in your neighborhood?

A: I’ve been in East Nashville since 2005 and in this particular neighborhood just since 2018. 

Q: Why did you and your family decide to take on a planting project?

A: In the pre-dawn hours after the tornado it was evident that we lost a lot of trees in the neighborhood. Once the sun came up, it was overwhelming to see just how many trees were lost — easily in the thousands of trees just in half a mile or so. Immediately we thought of raising money to plant trees again. 

Q: What was the response to the project, and did it surprise you?

A: We started putting the word out on March 4 and the donations came pouring in from all over. Everyone from aunts and uncles far away to other volunteers that were helping in the neighborhood. The response definitely surprised me! It quickly got way bigger than I ever thought it would! 

Q: What is your personal connection to trees?

A: As a young child growing up in Williamson County, we had a huge, forested hill across from our house. We’d spend hours up there playing in the woods. At a certain age, maybe 9, I started transplanting small Maple trees from the hill side and into our front yard. My whole family called them “Micah’s Maples.” So since a young age I’ve been connected to trees and through Boy Scouts I learned to identify more trees and then as an adult I started a landscaping company and tried to always shine a light on our great native tree species.

My favorite thing about trees is the place they hold in our memories and experiences. Picnics under a shade tree, a swing from a tree, a rope swing into the Harpeth River. People have connections with the trees in their lives and the memories that are entwined with these trees. 

Q: Some community members might feel justifiably wary about trees after the tornado. What would you say to them about the importance of replanting?

A: I’d say the key is to plant the right kind of tree in the right place. Plus if people are ever thinking of selling their home, there’s tons of data that show that a property with trees always sells for a higher price than the same property without trees. So it’s not only an investment in nature and all the wildlife that trees support but also a wise an investment into your property. 

Q: What would you want other community members affected by the tornado to know?

A: For those that lost trees I would like them to reach out and get on a list to receive trees that may be available for our community. For those that want to help, I’d like to see folks who can assist in tree planting efforts. 

Q:  Anything else you’d like to add?

A: I was just one guy asking for donations so we could plant trees and ended up with over $7,000. I think it shows a couple things: 

1) Try to help in areas in which you have some experience. If you are a chef, bring your grill and cook burgers for people that are helping. If you’re an organizer, then jump in and help. If you’re skilled with a chainsaw, then be there the first day, etc. I had some experience with trees and the knowledge on how to buy them for a good price and the wisdom to know that we needed some equipment to help us dig all those holes, otherwise it wouldn’t have happened so quickly. We did all the planting of 85 trees in one day!

2) When asking for donations, I think it was key that we started right away. Not two weeks later COVID-19 restrictions started and the economy started shrinking. If we hadn’t started the day after the tornado, we may not have raised so much while people were thinking so much of how they could help our community. 

All photos provided by Micah Puncochar.

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