The Mississippi Forestry Commission, in cooperation with the USDA Forest Service, has awarded an Urban & Community Forestry Assistance Challenge Grant to the Community Development Foundation and the Lee County Council of Governments to develop a master plan for ongoing community forestry initiatives for the development of beautification and forestry enhancement projects in the nine municipalities of Lee County. This project, deemed “Beautification Brings Business,” has resulted in the award of Transportation Enhancement Tree Planting Grants to the municipalities of Tupelo, Saltillo, Sherman, Nettleton, Plantersville, and Verona to fund the planting of over 1,500 trees. “We are very excited to receive this grant that will allow us to plant trees along many different interchanges in Lee County,” said Tommie Lee Ivy, president of the Lee County Board of Supervisors. “Through this regional beautification effort we will not only create a sense of continuity, connecting communities in our area, but will also create an inviting atmosphere, encouraging business to locate in Lee County.” The Urban & Community Forestry Assistance Challenge Grant will provide for the design of the tree planting project. The “Beautification Brings Business” program will begin with a demonstration project at the US Highway 45 and US Highway 78/Interstate 22 interchange in Tupelo. This project will serve as a design concept for the other municipal governments in Lee County. This phase will include the planting of 658 trees including Autumn Blaze Red Maples, Loblolly Pines, Natchez Crape Myrtles, and Tuscarora Crape Myrtles. The Transportation Enhancement Tree Planting Grant is a program for planting trees, funded by the MS Department of Transportation and administered by the MS Forestry Commission. Combined, the grants total nearly $70,000. Monies from the Transportation Enhancement Tree Planting Grant will fund projects at the city park on MS Highway 6 in Nettleton with 64 trees, the interchange of MS Highway 6 and Central Street in Plantersville with 59 trees, the interchange of US Highway 78/Interstate 22 and MS Highway 9 in Sherman with 282 trees, the interchange of US Highway 45 and MS Highway 145 in Saltillo with 393 trees, and the interchange of US Highway 45 and Main Street in Verona with 120 trees. "The Transportation Enhancement Tree Planting Grant is a wonderful partnership between the MS Department of Transportation and the MS Forestry Commission,” said Rick Olson, urban and community forestry coordinator, Mississippi Forestry Commission. “It provides a way for communities to revitalize our highways and our neighborhoods with trees. Trees provide gifts for us and our communities year after year. When trees are planted, people take notice." Another goal of the “Beautification Brings Business” program is to provide proper training for those public works employees and community volunteers who will take care of the trees planted as part of the project. A Northeast MS Community Forestry Workshop will be held Friday, October 30, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Lee County Library, covering proper tree planting and pruning techniques. While this is just one part of the overall project, continuing education is key to sustain the life of the trees planted and to support an enduring forestry program in Lee County. “Our overall goal in undertaking this project is to develop an ongoing community forestry program that will lead to the development of community forests in the nine municipalities in Lee County,” said Shane Hooper, planning and property management division chairman for the Community Development Foundation.