Restore 2006, or the Trees Project
To view the Planting Plan, click HERE. (link will open in a new window)
On January 11, 2013, Kevin Parris, Horticultural Instructor and Arboretum Director for Spartanburg Community College, sent an email to Trees Coalition Founder Newt Hardie to recap the results of a major tree planting program that had taken place in Converse Heights in 2006.
This is an excerpt from that email:
“In 2006 the Converse Heights neighborhood responded to a challenge from Mr. Roger Milliken and Mr. Hans Balmer to raise $150 000 for tree planting throughout this century old neighborhood.
“The residents of this progressive community surpassed that and raised $175 000. The funds were matched and we embarked on a mission to plant 1 000 new trees to fill gaps in the canopy left by the vagaries of time, weather, and neglect.
“I had the privilege to work very closely with Mr. Hans Balmer on the administration of this project. We walked many streets, and drove every street together, talking about his vision for a community that would have a diverse urban forest in 100 more years. We came very close to 1 000, planting about 980 new trees.
“We knew that we would not get 100% survival, but remarkably in a project this expansive, with no irrigation, the number of trees lost was truly insignificant.
“In the year following the project, Mr. Balmer asked me if I would promise him that I would always keep an eye on the trees of Converse Heights. Several months later I came to understand why he challenged me with that solemn request. Each time I drive the streets there are many vistas that make me smile, and there are some locations that turn down the corners of my mouth. Yet overall, nature has been kind to the trees that Mr. Milliken and Mr. Balmer challenged us to plant. And I know-both of them are smiling at the resolve of this community to preserve their vision.”
Raising $175 000 from a neighborhood of about 1 300 middle-class homes. Selecting and planting 980 trees to create an urban arboretum. What a great vision, and what a remarkable accomplishment!
It all started in 2003 when Mr. Balmer encouraged the Converse Heights Neighborhood Association to begin a tree replacement program after he became concerned about the number of beautiful, noble trees that were being lost each year.
That concern produced the Converse Heights Trees Taskforce, which met with trees expert Mr. Jimmy Waters of the SC Forestry Commission to gather information in August.
With Jenny Petrilyak, Kimberly Fly, Valerie Hare, Hans Balmer, Bill Broadwell, Christina Jeffries, Bob McCullough, Sam Mitchell and several others on board, serious planning began.
Mr. Balmer then reached out to friend and fellow-Converse Heights resident Mr. Roger Milliken and his Noble Trees Foundation for advice and support.
The Noble Trees Foundation held its annual meeting in November. Speakers included Dr. Bruce Fraedich, Director of the Bartlett Tree Research Laboratories, Mr. John Rosenow, President of the National Arbor Day Foundation, and Richard C. Webel, Managing Director of the landscape architecture, architecture and planning company Innocenti and Webel, LLC.
Kimberly Fly and several members of the Trees Taskforce, which now included Krista Stone and Brian Miller, attended this event and made valuable contacts.
At the Converse Heights Neighborhood Association’s Harvest Festival later that month, members began publicizing their plan and garnered a positive write up in the Spartanburg Herald.
The Hub City Writers Project, under the guidance of Betsy Teter, had just published a new book called Noble Trees of the South Carolina Upcountry, written by poet and naturalist John Lane and horticultural expert Michael Dirr. The book was sold at the Harvest Festival and 40% of the proceeds were donated to the Trees Taskforce, providing valuable seed money.
As the project moved forward, a survey of most of the trees in Converse Heights was undertaken with help from Mr. Milliken, and was blessed by Richard Webel.
The project was formalized as “Restore 2006” with these goals:
1. Educate residents on proper tree care, to include eradicating English ivy.
2. Assess the health and suitability of trees in public areas of Converse Heights.
3. Select and plant new trees to refresh and restore the canopy.
The year 2006 was selected as a target date for the planting of the new trees, as that would mark Converse Heights’ 100th year as an established neighborhood.
A fund-raising campaign, led by Kimberly Fly, began meeting to plan the important task of contacting potential donors. In addition to Kimberly, Ricky Richardson, Jenny Petrilyak, Jenny Osterman, Tracey Hannah, John and Susan Murphy, Francie Little, Bobby Pinson, Garrett Scott, Max Hyde, Hans Balmer, and others all volunteered to help.
On April 12, 2005, Jenny Petrilyak reported a challenge from the Noble trees foundation: if Converse Heights could raise $150 000, Noble Trees would match it dollar-for-dollar.
A full-color brochure was prepared explaining the goal of Restore 2006, describing the challenge match from Noble Trees, and showing both “noble trees” like oaks, elms, ginkos, and zelkovas, and “understory trees” like dogwoods, cherry and maple. The understory trees were to be planted in the grassy strips between street and sidewalks, with the noble trees planted in larger spaces like medians and areas with no overhead power lines.
A Master Planting Plan was prepared by LandArt Landscaping Architects, with Kevin Parris, Tip Pitts, Chris Thompson and Danielle Riffenberg doing this exacting job. The plan, showing where each tree should be planted, was displayed at Trinity United Methodist Church for all residents to review. All trees would be planted on property owned by the City, or on property covered by a City right-of-way. Residents were given the option to request a different tree for the space immediately in front of their homes, or to choose not to have a tree there at all. A copy of the Planting Plan is included with this article.
A fund was established at the Spartanburg County Foundation to handle the finances and make contributions tax-deductible. After a final push in August, over $175 000 had been raised from 168 households and the Noble Trees match was met.
In February of 2006, Converse Heights celebrated its Centennial Year with the successful planting of 980 new trees by Roebuck Landscaping.
Hans Balmer’s wife, Lucia, stated that they hoped by planting these trees on public property, Converse Heights’ home-owners would be encouraged to plant and protect trees on their property as well.
Over the next few years, the trees were watered and mulched, trimmed and pruned, thanks to an anonymous gift of $12 000. Concerned with on-going care, CHNA members met with City leaders for help. The City agreed to take on the maintenance of the trees and to remove any that died.
There was approximately $40 000 left over in the Trees Fund at the Spartanburg County Foundation. This was ear-marked for the replacement of dead trees and the planting of new trees in public spaces in Converse Heights. CHNA was given the responsibility to oversee the Fund.
Each year, CHNA purchases 10-15 trees, which the City plants for us and looks after for the first year.
In 2016, to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the tree planting, Monty Mullen Hankinson, sister-in-law of Hans Balmer and the Director of the Balmer Foundation, made a gift of $20 000 to the Trees Fund, marking $9 000 for the care and maintenance of the original trees planted in 2006, plus any replacements, and $11 000 for planting new trees in the Crystal Springs Ravine Improvement Project. (The Ravine area was discussed in the initial planning process of Restore 2006, but Mr. Balmer thought that this should be treated as a separate project. It is now an ongoing project for CHNA.)
Thanks to the extraordinary vision of Mr. Hans Balmer and Mr. Roger Milliken and the hard work and generosity of Converse Heights neighbors, Converse Heights is a diverse urban forest with a beautiful and valuable canopy of trees that will be enjoyed for generations to come.
Good Neighbor of the Year Award
In 2010, CHNA began recognizing special neighbors with the Good Neighbor of The Year Award.
This award was intended to be our way to say “Thank You” for making our neighborhood a better place in which to live, and for supporting our mission to make Converse Heights “safe, beautiful and fun.”
Winners are selected by the CHNA Board from neighborhood suggestions, and do not have to be Converse Heights residents. (We value neighborliness over proximity!)
A $100 check to the non-profit entity of choice goes to the winner, along with our thanks and recognition at the Annual Meeting.
Here are the Good Neighbor Award Recipients:
2010: Mr. Roger Milliken
Extraordinary efforts to beautify Converse Heights and to plant many noble trees.
2011: Dr. Bob Watson
Uncounted hours and heroic efforts maintaining the entrances to Converse Heights.
2012: Lindsay Webster and Billy Webster
Good Will Ambassadors inviting children from all over Spartanburg to enjoy Halloween treats.
2013: Trinity United Methodist Church
Generous sharing of their property for many neighborhood meetings and gatherings.
2014: Kevin Parris and Jay Moore (SCC Horticultural Department)
Invaluable sharing of time, labor, and expertise on several large beautification projects.
2015: Patrick Anderson, Cal Wicker, Gray Wicker
Hot dog chefs volunteering their skills to make National Night Out a huge success.
2016: Newt Hardie
For providing unparalleled leadership and dedication to preserving and protecting our native trees.
2017: Monty Mullen Hankinson
As Director of the Balmer Foundation, Monty has shown foresight and generosity and helped to make Converse Heights a place where trees and people flourish.