Skip to Content

Mayor Briley, U.S. Senator Frist, and Partners Plant First of 500,000 Trees to Launch Root Nashville Campaign

Judith Byrd 615-862-6461

Mayor David Briley launched a campaign today to plant and care for 500,000 trees across Nashville by 2050 in collaboration with private, nonprofit and philanthropic partners. The campaign is designed to increase the city’s tree canopy and create a more equitable distribution of the health and sustainability benefits of urban trees across all neighborhoods.

“This campaign will help clean the air we breathe and the water we drink, improving our health, mitigating flooding and extreme heat, and delivering economic benefits for the city,” said Mayor David Briley. “This is a perfect example of how Nashville comes together for the collective good. I encourage everyone to get involved by planting a tree or volunteering their time or funds.”

The Root Nashville: Plant a Tree, Grow Our City campaign’s very first tree –a tulip poplar– was planted by Mayor Briley, U.S. Senator Bill Frist, M.D., Rev. Sanders and campaign partners at the Metropolitan Interdenominational Church in North Nashville.

An outgrowth of Metro’s Livable Nashville sustainability plan, the Root Nashville campaign is calling on all Nashvillians to come together to increase Davidson County’s tree-canopy coverage. In 2016, Livable Nashville found that, since 2008, the tree canopy in the urban zone had fallen from 28 percent to 24 percent—far below comparable cities across the country. The Tennessee Division of Forestry estimates Nashville has lost approximately 9,000 trees per year for the last eight years.

The first wave of Root Nashville tree plantings will focus on North Nashville, Madison, and South Nashville. These initial areas are identified as Impact Neighborhoods where the addition of trees could be improve public health, environmental quality, and social equity outcomes.

“Trees make your life better and healthier, as science has demonstrated again and again,” said Sen. Frist, founder and chairman of NashvilleHealth and chairman of the Root Nashville Advisory Board. “We know that the immediate environment has a huge impact on Nashvillians’ health outcomes, and this collaborative campaign puts a clear strategy in place to make a difference. The early focus on Impact Neighborhoods will bring the promise of improved quality of life and wellbeing to local residents.”

In addition to Metro Government and NashvilleHealth, the campaign advisory board includes representatives from The Nature Conservancy of Tennessee, Hands on Nashville, the Nashville Tree Foundation and the Urban Land Institute of Nashville. The campaign’s priorities are:

  • Improve the equitable distribution of trees (by meeting canopy goals as outlined in Metro’s Urban Forestry Master Plan)
  • Lower rates of pediatric asthma hospitalizations attributed to respiratory illness
  • Improve water quality and storm-water management
  • Reduce high-heat areas within the city (urban heat-island effect)
  • Minimize the impact of the Emerald Ash Borer infestation on the canopy

“All Nashvillians will reap the many benefits that come from planting trees including safer, more prosperous neighborhoods, cleaner air and water, energy savings, greater resilience to flooding and extreme heat and improved mental and physical health,” said Executive Director Mekayle Houghton, of the Cumberland River Compact, which is the organization serving as the campaign’s operational partner through a $1.5 million gift from the Atticus Trust.

“Planting 500,000 trees is going to take a lot of hard work. That is why we have dedicated a majority for our gift to cover all of the operating costs for the campaign,” said Martin Brown, Sr. of the Atticus Trust. “This is an extension of the work my late wife Betty started when she planted the Nashville Tree Foundation’s first tree in East Nashville some 32 years ago. That was the start of a multi-generational commitment by our family to Nashville’s trees.”

“Great cities grow in many ways,” said Adam Freed, Principal at Bloomberg Associates, a pro bono consulting firm that supported the development of the campaign. “We’re proud to help launch the Root Nashville campaign, which places people and public health at its heart and will bring cleaner air and cooler neighborhoods to all Nashvillians. This campaign puts Nashville among the leading cities taking on urban heat and air quality issues.”

The campaign is also supported by a multi-year financial commitment from NISSAN North America.

"We recently announced a partnership with the National Park Foundation and the cause of conserving parks and green spaces across the U.S. as part of our Calling All TITANS marketing campaign. Those efforts extend to our Nashville home, which is why we are proud to partner with Mayor Briley on the Root Nashville, initiative making a difference one tree at a time," said Jeremy Tucker, Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Nissan North America. "Today, we are Calling All TITANS of the community and the outdoors to join us in the Root Nashville efforts."

To further support the campaign’s tree planting, stewardship and education programs, Metro and the Cumberland River Compact will seek additional financial and in-kind support from individuals, corporations and foundations. Nashvillians can participate by visiting the campaign website at and:

  • Planting a tree on their property and registering it on the Root Nashville website
  • Committing to water and care for trees in their neighborhood
  • Volunteering with Root Nashville through organizations like Hands On Nashville
  • Donating funds or in-kind resources
  • Spreading the word about Root Nashville and the health benefits of trees

The Root Nashville campaign complements the mayoral Executive Order 40 enacted in 2018. The order establishes the role of a Metro Urban Forestry Manager, increases tree-planting requirements on Metro capital projects, provides for protection and replacement of trees on Metro properties, strengthens tree policy for development, and invests in tracking and monitoring trees and tree care. Metro commits approximately $2 million a year to its urban forestry program – through staff time, technology, equipment, and trees planted by Metro departments.

Additional support for the campaign will be provided by Opportunity NOW youth, who will gain employment through the program to plant and care for the trees. Opportunity NOW is a youth employment initiative supported by the Office of the Mayor to create a comprehensive out-of-school network to improve the overall climate for hiring young people in Nashville. Opportunity NOW provides Nashville youth with recruitment, training, and placement into employment opportunities.

Mayor Briley and Sen. Frist were joined at the announcement by Councilmember At-Large Sharon Hurt, Reverend Edwin Sanders II of Metropolitan Interdenominational, Martin Brown Sr. of the Atticus Trust, the Root Nashville Advisory Board, Livable Nashville Committee members, and various Metro department heads.