Since January 1989, Kingsport has held the Chipping of the Green event, where people could bring their used, real Christmas tree to the park and have it mulched and bagged to take home for landscaping and other purposes.
According to Leslie Snyder, director of Keep Kingsport Beautiful, the annual event will not be held this year due to low participation and a significant reduction of real trees used for Christmas decorations.
“It’s sad, but we need to roll with the changes,” Snyder said. “There’s always another event we could create that would have the community involved.”
In January 2007, fewer than 370 trees were brought to the park on the day of the event as compared to over 900 just a few years ago. Including what was picked up curbside by city crews, fewer than 3,200 trees were made into mulch last year.
Lewis Bausell, landscape specialist with the city of Kingsport, said an increased use in artificial trees for Christmas has played a big role in the drop of real trees being mulched.
“We’ve seen a large reduction of trees brought to the event over the years,” Bausell said. “It’s evident that more artificial trees are being used, and it has been costing the city more and more to hold the event each year.”
In 1990, the city mulched an estimated 8,000 trees with a cost to the city of $1,200. Last season, the event cost the city over $9,000 in equipment, manpower and materials, or around $3 for every tree chipped into mulch. The event reached its peak in 1998 when approximately 20,000 trees were recycled.
“With 3,000 trees, there’s not that much. It takes about five trees to make one bag of mulch, so you’re not talking about a whole lot of mulch. When we had 20,000 trees you’re talking a whole lot of mulch,” Bausell said. “There’s not going to be that much mulch for people to fight over.”
Even though the event has been canceled, Christmas trees will still be collected and recycled into mulch for future landscaping projects. The Kingsport Public Works Department will pick up Christmas trees placed curbside on the regularly scheduled trash route.
“While the Chipping of the Green served many purposes in the past, the same results will be accomplished without high costs and effort needed to host the event,” Snyder said.
Bausell, who said he was sad to see the event canceled, said no decision has been made whether residents can go to the landfill and receive a bag of mulch.
Vivian Crymble, who served as the executive director of Clean Kingsport (the predecessor of KKB), worked to create the Chipping of the Green event in 1988.
Crymble said she remembers having great participation with the event, but the event was also labor intensive.
“In those days we were getting lots of trees. I think it’s still a good idea, but perhaps it needs to be looked at — do we need to do it in another location? Not have so much manpower involved in it? Maybe that’s been done,” said Crymble. “When you’re actually chipping it in front of us, that’s the reminder, that yes, we’re doing the right thing.”
For more information contact KKB at 392-8814 or the city’s public works department at 229-9451.