Business owner honors his father by donating 100,000 trees

By Hollie Deese
Nashville, TN (July 8, 2011)- Chris Clark is a conservationist by birth. His father, Steve, founded Steve Clark and Associates, a Nashville-based natural resource planning firm 36 years ago. By combining landscape architecture and civil engineering with urban forestry, the company looks at designing sites from a holistic standpoint, taking in everything from the soil to trees.

“We design in concert with nature,” Clark says. “We work around trees, the environment. Instead of going in and leveling everything we see what our resources are and use them as assets and even move things around. We transport a lot of trees, move streams, wetlands and use everything on site before we take everything down.”
His father had instilled in Clark the belief that there was a greater purpose in what he did for a living other than just making money. “As long as I can remember, my dad would ask me if I knew why he did what he did,” Clark says. “His reply was always ‘I do it for you and your children and your children’s children.’ I have never not known saving the environment.”
His father’s statement is one he repeats to his own daughter, now 7, who unfortunately never got to meet her grandfather, who died before she was born. But she is very aware of his impact on their family. “She knows why we save trees every day, why we give trees away, why we promote clean water,” he says. Now the president of the company his father founded, Clark wanted to honor him in a big way. So last year he decided to donate trees … a lot of them. His goal was to give away 100,000 trees he purchased from the state nursery and distribute them across the state. Within a year of the project’s inception, he had done just that.
He was able to get 93 of the state’s 95 counties to participate, with each county getting at least 1,000 trees. More than 500 trees ended up around Nashville International Airport, where officials wanted to buffer a nearby stream. And should all of Clark’s adopted trees – oaks, cypress, pines and poplars ranging in size from 1/2″ to 1/4″ in diameter – survive even after 20 years, they will have absorbed a combined 41 tons of carbon each year. That is almost equivalent of a 350-acre forest. “I wanted to show that one person can make a difference so I went real big with it to make an impact and grab people’s attention,” Clark says. “Had I done less than 100,000 I would have felt like I wasn’t doing enough. I have worked with trees and they have fed me my entire life so I gave back.”
When Gov. Bill Haslam and Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau recently announced the winners of the 2011 Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards, Clark had won the Natural Heritage distinction for his statewide effort. “I really just wanted to celebrate being in business, celebrate my father and do it very publicly,” he says. “I went big and I think it is paying off. If we put the resources in people’s hands, they will make it happen. “They stepped up because that is no small number of trees to get planted in a short amount of time, and it showed people are willing to do this in their communities and school systems. They are willing to do this if you give them the opportunity to do it. It was definitely a success in my mind from a social standpoint.
“I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Related Resources:
Nashville Ledger- Business Owner Honors Father By Donating 100,000 Trees