In the spring of 1997, Little Rock native John Baker returned from schooling in downtown St. Louis, Missouri, where he was dismayed by the near total lack of trees. John shared his experience with two friends, Marie Friend and Billy Wagner, and all agreed how important it was for Little Rock to maintain one of its greatest assets: the many trees beautifying our neighborhoods. All agreed that “someone” should ensure that Little Rock’s downtown streets never met the same fate at St. Louis’s… and so Tree Streets was born.
John, Marie, and Billy incorporated Tree Streets and gained 501(c)(3) tax exempt nonprofit status in the summer of 1997, with a clear mission and simple purpose: to plant appropriate, long-living trees between the sidewalk and the curb along the streets of Little Rock's downtown neighborhoods to provide decades of beauty, shade, energy-savings for adjacent residents, and habitat for birds and wildlife. In the nearly twenty years since our founding, it is now commonly understood that trees are not only important to our quality of life, but also to life itself, urgently needed to combat climate change, especially in our cities, by absorbing carbon dioxide from the air and releasing oxygen; removing pollution, dust, and odors; saving water and curbing soil erosion; and shading our streets and cooling the harsh urban landscape.
In the fall of 1997, Tree Streets planted our first tree, a red maple at the southwest corner of the intersection of Marshall and 17th Streets, then 25 more during this first planting season. By 2003 we planted our 500th tree (another red maple) at the southwest corner of Park and 16th Streets across from historic Little Rock Central High School. In all, Tree Streets has planted over 600 trees (oaks, maples, poplars, and elms) along more than 100 blocks of our city’s streets.
In our nearly two decades of service, our beloved downtown Little Rock has experienced amazing growth. With your help, Tree Streets will continue ensure that growth includes the strong, beautiful trees that shade our walks, clean our skies, shelter our songbirds, and cool our planet.
Present* and Past Board Members of Tree Streets: