COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — Friday morning, despite the cold weather, a group of volunteers gathered at Theo McGee Park in Columbus to plant trees and pick up litter. The event was done in a partnership between Keep Columbus Beautiful, Trees Columbus, the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department and the Columbus Public Works Department, according to Lisa Thomas-Cutts, executive director of the Keep Columbus Beautiful Commission.

Volunteers planted a variety of oak trees.

“[M]y sorority that I’m a part of, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, and our local chapter here, one of the local chapters, Gamma Tau Omega, one of our program initiatives this year is enhance the environment,” said Dr. Keisha Cook, a volunteer. “And a part of that program initiative, we are charged to support the environment, help clean up, plant trees. And this was the perfect opportunity for us to just come out.”

“I love planting trees,” said Cliff Ruehl, a volunteer with Trees Columbus. “Planting trees just makes you feel good. It does such a good service to the community. It improves the tree canopy. It reduces warm heat island effects. So that’s always good.”

Ruehl said it was a perfect day to plant trees because rain from the previous night had made the soil softer.

Dorothy McDaniel, executive director of Trees Columbus, said Trees Columbus has been working with the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department and the neighborhood around the park to come up with a plan for the park.

“And so what we did is we went to the folks in the neighborhood, and we said, ‘Tell us about this park. What is it that you like? What is it that needs to be improved? What would make you use it if you don’t use this park already?’” she said.

McDaniel said the trees would provide shade, which would be important in the summer when the park gets very hot. She also said the trees would help with erosion. She said a walking trail would be added to the park, as people surveyed had said they wanted one.

Thomas-Cutts said the event was fitting for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend because the civil rights leader was about giving back to his community.

“There’s a Chinese proverb that says, ‘The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. But the second best time is today,’ she said. “And so, I am so happy and excited because we’re doing it here today.”

McDaniel said that Keep Columbus Beautiful and Trees Columbus have a tradition of planting trees the Friday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

“And this is our 19th year of doing that,” she said.