September 27, 2018

LEXINGTON, Ky.,  — Studies have shown that when urban residential developments included trees and green spaces, people were drawn to interact and socialize with their neighbors more often, felt safer and developed stronger ties to their community. In short, growing trees can also grow a neighborhood.

Tree and site selection are frequently the primary emphases in community tree planting initiatives, but an often overlooked aspect of these initiatives is the process of engaging residents in recipient neighborhoods. During two upcoming public events in Lexington, Rupert Bentley Walls, senior arboricultural officer for the Borough of Hackney, London, England, will discuss both the barriers he’s encountered and his successes when expanding the tree canopy and creating resident tree advocates. Walls has spent his career in tree planting and tree care, creating and engaging in such relationships with residents of high-need neighborhoods.

Walls will speak about his experience working in London and across the United Kingdom at a public seminar, Neighborhood Engagement in Planting and Nurturing Urban Trees, from 7 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10 at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center, 300 E. Third St., Lexington. A reception beginning at 6 p.m. will precede his talk.

The seminar is sponsored by the University of Kentucky’s Department of Community and Leadership Development in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, and the Urban Forestry Initiative, a working group of UK’s Tracy Farmer Institute for Sustainability and the Environment.

“Rupert really has done a lot of work engaging very diverse communities,” said Lissa Pohl, CLD program and outreach extension associate. “In Community and Leadership Development, our interest is how do you do any kind of environmental initiative in diverse communities, whether it’s trees or housing, and get buy-in to make these programs and initiatives sustainable. It means involving and talking to those communities and seeing what their needs are and not necessarily leading the initiative, but providing resources so they can lead their own initiative.”

A panel discussion and dialogue about how to effectively engage neighborhoods in tree initiatives will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Friday, Oct. 12 at the Episcopal Mission House, 203 E. Fourth St., Lexington. Walls will join panelists Heather Wilson, municipal arborist with Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, Saunda Richardson Coleman, a citizen tree activist, and Heather Hyden, former community advocate for North Limestone Community Development. Dakota Smith, a senior in the Department of Community and Leadership Development, will moderate. A 30-minute coffee social will kick off the panel from 9 to 9:30 am. The UK Department of Community and Leadership Development is sponsoring the event.

Both events are part of Tree Week, Oct. 6-14, a community- and campus-wide celebration of Lexington's trees and all the ways trees positively impact lives. Tree-themed events and programs will take place throughout the week at various locations. More information about Tree Week and Rupert Bentley Walls is available at


Lissa Pohl, 859-257-2748