Alliance for Cape Fear Trees helps to enhance Wilmington’s Urban Forest


Photo by Cierra Noffke

Market St. sidewalk, downtown Wilmington, NC

Gia Lash, Contributing Writer

It’s no secret that Southeastern NC is well-known for its natural beauty. Our stunning coastline attracts thousands of visitors each year, with over $612 million in 2018. Paired with UNCW’s beautiful campus and the views of the Cape Fear River downtown, Wilmington is considered one of the prettiest towns in North Carolina. You might not think of Wilmington’s trees when you think of conservation in this area, but the Alliance for Cape Fear Trees is changing that. 

The Alliance For Cape Fear Trees (ACFT)  was founded in 2015, by members of the Wilmington Tree Commission to “address the needs of the community and urban forestry in the Greater Wilmington and lower Cape Fear region,” according to the group’s website. The organization has 501(c)(3) status, and can therefore welcome tax-deductible donations.

Connie Parker, who serves as both the Chair for the ACFT and a member of the Board of Directors, says “Our mission is to protect, preserve and plant new trees in Wilmington, enhance the urban forest and to make it a better place for our future generations.”

It’s not uncommon to see whole families volunteering at the ACFT’s tree planting events. The organization encourages everyone to come out and pitch in and has even partnered with local Girl Scout Troops and The Cape Fear Garden Club. 

In early October 2020, they hosted a tree distribution event to engage the community while accommodating COVID-19 health restrictions. Community members registered online and picked out the type of tree that they wanted to plant at their homes. At the close of the event, they had given away a total of 1,000 trees, including Downy Serviceberry, Flowering Dogwood, Sweetbay Magnolia, American Persimmon, Swamp White Oak and Overcup Oak varieties to be planted in the community. 

The event was part of the Wilmington Tree Initiative, which began in late September 2020. This initiative aims to plant 1,739 trees in Wilmington by the fall of 2021, to commemorate the city’s founding in 1739. The ACFT is one of a long list of partners in the initiative, which also includes UNCW and the Plastic Ocean Project. The Initiative has planted at least 300 trees since it began and has given away 1,550 to community members to plant.

US 17 Business (Third Street) at Dock Street in Wilmington (Photo by Cierra Noffke)

Education and advocacy are also central to ACFT’s work. They raise awareness for their mission at many events in the area, including the Azalea Festival, Earth Day, Fire in the Pines, and the Native Plant Festival. Members of the ACFT can attend field trips to learn more about urban forestry and tree preservation. In recent years, the group has visited tributaries and communities along the Cape Fear River, including Black River and River Bluffs. 

The Alliance for Cape Fear Trees also offers the Trees Forever Program, which allows anyone to purchase a tree in honor or memory of a loved one. Trees are tended to by the City or County forestry teams, making this a sustainable and unique gift option that gives back to the community. 

To get involved with The Alliance for Cape Fear Trees, consider attending their volunteer tree planting events on October 24th or November 21st. For more information about donating and volunteering, visit the “Get Involved” section of their website.