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I moved to a small river town in 2021 to be closer to the variety of greenspace that it offers. Just outside of my rental house is a Nature Sanctuary and minutes away is a formal park that runs along the Missouri River. Just beside it and along the river there is a less formal park, a big circle with gravel paths that cut through. There is a nice, big dog park there, too. Most days I am out walking in one place or another depending on whether I want sun and river, or hills and forest. It is delightful!

Three years ago, as part of the “renovation” of the less formal park, 1,200 young trees were planted on the north and west sides of the gravel path. Each one was fitted with a very rigid plastic mesh “collar” to keep deer from damaging the bark.  

Last year, as I was walking the paths, it occurred to me that these trees were in trouble. Unless the collars were removed, the trees that were now established would start growing through the mesh which would harm them in the long term. While City Hall was all about planting these trees, it seemed no one was going to make sure they had a good start. I introduced myself to the Superintendent of Parks and said that I wanted to volunteer to remove these collars so the trees could be free to grow naturally. This is a city park and I was a bit worried that I would be rejected right off the bat since I do not have any formal experience with tree maintenance. I have always loved plants and gardening. I realized this task of removing the collars just required a little boldness and a lot of patience and determination. He said there was a contract to maintain them, “Sorry.”

I stated that the trees needed someone who cared about them to do this task and that I was not going to give up.

About 10 days later he texted me and said that the contract fell through, so I had a green light to go ahead. I was pretty excited to liberate them all!

I started on October 1 of 2022 carefully clipping the plastic away from the branches and trunks and removing grass clippings and debris that had accumulated within the collars. After three years with these collars on, many of the Baby tree trunks showed signs of disease and rot due to mold and insect infestation.

Honestly, I felt the relief of these baby trees when they were freed and cleared of the debris.  It became quite a spiritual activity for me as I sat on the ground with gloves and pruners for about an hour or so each day.

I did not get much response from the parkgoers, although someone called the police because I had driven my car (with permission) on the gravel path which was not allowed. A patrol car showed up and said that the complaint came from an alderman but he, himself, thought I was doing a great job! The kerfuffle didn’t amount to anything, and I did quit driving even though it added 20 minutes of walking that I could have used for cutting collars. I was disappointed that something I was doing for the good of the community was not considered by the complainant. I shrugged it off since I was there on behalf of the trees and felt their gratitude. That mattered most. I worked all winter, except on the coldest or wettest days.

Six months later, on March 20, 2023 (the spring equinox!), I removed the last collar from tree # 1,200.    

Vivian and the Trees

This work made me understand that even though the news can be dire about the status of our environment, there are things we all can do that make a difference. It may not change the biggest picture all at once, but change happens one step at a time, one person at a time.  

It was such a meaningful and gratifying experience. I encourage you to see where you are needed.  What/who is calling you?

Vivian Faulkner

I grew up in a very large city with few vistas or greenery and only small patches of sky. I used to find the places that had no straight lines where it was easier to breathe and seemed to make more sense. I now live in a small town in the Midwest where there are wide open spaces and fewer shadows. I am an artist, a translator for plants and animals, and curious about all things in nature. I am currently writing and illustrating a book about my experiences with plants and animals. If you would like to find out more about what I’m doing or would like to share opportunities to further connect with the natural world, you can reach me at: or through my website: VK Animal Communication.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Connie Hernandez

    I love this blog. All of life is made up of little things – little moments. I wish I could say it better but we all need to do the little things that we can do – pick up that one piece of trash, recycle that one bottle, free that one tree. I am impressed and encouraged by your dedication to do this for 1,200 trees. That is one little thing at a time that makes a huge difference. One step at a time and we can change the world. You have made an incredible contribution to that change.

  2. Sondra Subotnick

    Vivian, you are an inspiration. I will be sharing this with my friends. Thank you for your dedication and commitment to live according to your values!!

  3. Maria Pinto

    Thank you, Vivian, for sharing your love, compassion, & commitment to nature. I know these beautiful trees are happy now, and when we take the time to give back to nature, we are nurtured in return.

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