When arborist Dave Klemp heard that Raleigh’s free-tree program was disbanding, he decided to start his own. A few months ago, 25-year-old Klemp launched Trees for the Triangle with the lofty goal of planting 50,000 trees by 2050. So far he’s 17 down and 49,983 to go.
Q: Why was it so important to you to create Trees for the Triangle?
A: I worked for the city of Raleigh for three-and-a-half years part time for the NeighborWoods program. (The program allowed residents to request a free tree to put in the right-of-way in front of their homes, and they had to promise to water and mulch the tree for two years.) I worked with it through last June and when the program was discontinued, I said, "Well this isn’t terribly hard to run."
Q: Why do you love trees so much?
A: Trees affect every part of our existence — the physical air and water we consume, our mental states and the way we interact with nature and our societies, even our economy on both large and very small scales. They do all that with grace and manage to blend into our surroundings.
There isn't a single person whose life is not improved by the addition of a tree, and so this was an easy career choice for me. I just hope others share my optimism and enthusiasm.
Q: Planting 50,000 trees by 2050 sounds ambitious. How did you come up with the number?
I have to credit that push to my board member Zac Harris who worked at the NeighborWoods program for a while when we were both at N.C. State. My goal was going to be to plant so many per year, and he said we needed to have an overall goal that people can picture. So I said, "Let’s do 50,000 trees."
Q: You have 32 years to meet your goal. So do the math for us — how many trees per year?
A: Somewhere between 1,500 and 1,600 trees a year. It won’t be something we meet the first year. Hopefully we’ll grow up to that and then surpass it in the later years so that it averages out.
Q: How are you planning to pay for the trees?
A: I don’t have a lot of money yet, but I think that’s going to change. We’re submitting our (nonprofit) forms, and we’ve got some legal help from Wake Forest University’s free law clinic. Once we have that nonprofit status where I can tell people we’re a 501c3 organization, it’s going to be easier for me to get donations from individuals and set up sponsorships and partnerships with businesses.
I would really like to work with local businesses and set up some kind of micro-donation program. I will be applying for grants too.
Q: Your first big planting in March was at a Habitat for Humanity neighborhood in Efland, a small community in Orange County. What was that like?
A: I actually planted our first tree the day before that — just one tree at a home in Raleigh of someone I knew so I can keep a close eye on it as our first tree. The 16 trees for Habitat Orange County were a great success, and we hope to work with them more.
Q: What are the guidelines for requesting a free tree?
A: All I ask is that someone lives in Wake, Durham or Orange counties. As long as they’re the owner of the property, that’s about it.
We’re actively working on building a website where people can apply. In the meantime, if people want to email me at email@example.com, I will drive out myself and assess the property and get back with them via email. It benefits everybody.
Q: What are the fundraisers you've organized?
A: Oak City Brewing is doing a cool event for us April 21 in honor of Earth Day, partnering with Appalachian Mountain Brewery to do a tap takeover. Proceeds from one of the kegs will go to Trees for the Triangle.
We’ll have an Arbor Day fundraiser at Raleigh Brewing on April 27 and brewed a beer for that. I foresee a lot of events where people are able to drink beer to raise money for planting trees.
Dave Klemp — Tar Heel of the Week
Born: Sept. 8, 1992, in Raleigh
Raised: Wake Forest
Education: Degree in forest management from N.C. State University; certified arborist
Occupation: Teaches home brewing
Fun fact: Plays the baritone ukulele
To donate or apply for a tree: Email firstname.lastname@example.org