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Thursday, January 28, 2016

You Can Help Save Our Urban Forests: Start Here

The East Row Garden Club in Newport, Ky., is offering a free showing of "Trees In Trouble," a local documentary, which is receiving national attention, about the threats facing our urban forests.

More than three years ago Andrea Torrice, a Cincinnati documentary and public television producer and writer, was jogging through Burnet Woods. "It is beautiful. But one day I noticed that interspersed between the green canopy were dead trees," Torrice says. And the dead trees were all marked—with a large "X."

That same day Torrice ran into a neighbor who was walking through Burnet Woods. The neighbor said the X's indicated infested ash trees. All were slated to be cut down. "Then a tree in my backyard fell down after a storm," Torrice says. "It was also an ash tree. That's when I began to read more about the infestation." 

Soon after a scientist colleague told Torrice that the ash trees were defenseless and in danger of extinction. "I love the trees in our region, but I'm not a scientist," Torrice says. "Originally I wanted to do a children's video about trees but then everything changed course." The result: "Trees in Trouble: Saving America's Urban Forests," a film that is getting national attention.

Andrea Torrice and her crew filming "Trees in Trouble" in Bellevue Beach Park.

The documentary focuses on America's urban and community forests—their history and importance—and the threats they face from diseases and non-native insects. Particular interest is given to Cincinnati and the effect the emerald ash borer has had on its beloved ash trees—an infestation Fort Thomas is not immune to. Torrice then explores the community-wide efforts that are happening still today to save and protect our urban forests.

A national PBS premiere is slated for Arbor Day, April 29, but you have the opportunity to attend a free viewing Tuesday, February 16 at 6:30pm at The Sanctuary Event Center (417 East 6th St., Newport). The East Row Garden Club (ERGC) is hosting the event to support the Northern Kentucky Urban and Community Forestry Council. Davey Tree provided the funds to purchase the film.

"The ERGC has done significant work to improve Newport's urban forest so it is in our interest as well," says Chris Comte, a member and co-chair of Tree Revitalize, a committee of ERGC that educates residents of the historic Newport neighborhood on tree issues and sponsors planting events. "We did a thorough assessment of the East Row canopy in 2013 and planted 90-plus trees in the East Row in 2014. In 2015 we partnered with the city and other Newport organizations to plant 125 trees on the west side," Comte says. "We promote community, gardening, gardening education, project support, beautification in the City of Newport, Ky., and make charitable gifts that support our mission." 

One of our region's last mature ash trees, located in Spring Grove Cemetery.

emerald ash borer

A dead ash tree is removed in Ault Park.

The viewing of the film is one such way ERGC is working to educate northern Kentucky residents on the importance of urban forestry and the threats our beloved trees face. Several of the people featured in the film will be at the showing and available to answer questions after.

"Invasive pests are a national issue," Torrice says. "Focusing the film on Cincinnati is a good way to show how an invasive bug from another country got a free ride on a cargo ship, and how we are now paying the price of our local coffers to deal with an international problem we did not cause."

Torrice says it took three years to finish "Trees in Trouble," mostly due to a lack of film funders in our region. Her work started in 2012 thanks to a research grant from the Ohio Humanities. "Lots of people [in the film world] volunteered their time and skills," Torrice says. "I am very grateful for all the help I got."

Students at Pleasant Ridge School in Cincinnati plant trees on Arbor Day.

Your efforts can help save our trees, in Fort Thomas, northern Kentucky, Cincinnati and beyond. Education starts here. To RSVP, simply contact Chris Comte at or (859) 802-8514.

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