By Chris Chao ’22
Passion is contagious.
A collection of photographs, sporadic pieces of information, and a map with 123 points for each tree—that’s how I started as a Sustainability Scholar. My partner organization was TreesCharlotte, an environmental-preservation organization that is dedicated to preserving Charlotte’s tree canopy. My main project revolved around the Mecklenburg County Treasure Tree program. The Treasure Tree program started in the late ‘80s to identify the largest and most significant examples of each tree species in the county. The original program ended in 2000. With the massive development in the Charlotte area, a new committee was formed in 2017 with the goal of restarting the program.
My job was to track down trees, photograph them, interview the property owners to get the trees’ stories and then put all that information on a new website. About 55% of them are still standing today. Once I organized our information, my supervisor suggested I visit some sites to get photographs and interview the homeowners.
That’s when everything changed.
After I interviewed the first property owners about their trees, I realized I was working on something really special. Their stories inspired me. I became personally invested in telling the stories of these trees—trees which homeowners played on when they were children and trees that signified people’s parents, some of whom had passed. Through the passion in people’s recollection, I realized the importance of preserving these stories.
My time with TreesCharlotte is almost over and soon the Treasure Tree website will be live. Moving forward, I’ll become a volunteer member of the Mecklenburg County Treasure Trees board. I hope to start a similar program in the Town of Davidson for my environmental studies capstone. I’ve experienced how contagious passion can be and I’d love to share that with the Davidson community.
Thank you to TreesCharlotte’s Jen Rothacker and Treasure Tree Committee member Brett Dupree for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this project. I only played a small part in the updated Treasure Tree program, but I loved it.