The humble name Trees on the Coast hides the fact that this organization does so much more than planting trees. I learned from its director Bobby Wagner that they started out planting trees and educating students in local schools about environmental topics. Before long, volunteers were going into the water to remove trash. Then, they formed partnerships to complete a beach nourishment project.
The thing is, planting a tree, like many other simple starts, is only an opening. It builds a bond between person and place. It leads to ideas, opportunities, and relationships that continue to make a lasting change to our coastal landscape.
Bobby’s story is not much different than the organization that he leads. Each step he took seemed to open the door to more opportunities. He attended Troy University, majoring in Music Education. However, his interest in video production led to an internship. He returned to the Emerald Coast to take a job and soon founded Land Air Sea Productions. He started volunteering video services and fundraising, which led to his becoming the Historian for Trees on the Coast - “the guy with the camera”!
When the founder Allen French left in 2020, Bobby took the helm of Trees on the Coast. As Director, he’s had to work with cities and municipalities. He’s learned what a huge impact our local politicians have on the quality of life we all experience here. That’s led him to seek an opportunity to serve Destin as mayor. If he succeeds, he will be Destin’s youngest to date.
He loves to share his journey as an aspiring band director turned non-profit Director to encourage anyone who wants to join Trees on the Coast. You don’t need to specialize in environmental studies to have a big impact on this beautiful area!
There are many ways to get involved. One important group are the sponsors and donors who supply the trees. Historically, Trees on the Coast will raise $1,500-$2,000 per school. They plant live oak and long leaf pine to revive native plant life.
Keep your eye out for their projects planned in partnership with the state and Department of Environmental Protection to nourish beaches and the bay front. You can support efforts to improve public access to nature through beach buybacks, upgrades to ramps and piers, and the Mattie Kelley Nature Park.
The Honor Tree Program, offered by Trees on the Coast, is a way for anyone to make a permanent investment in this area by memorializing a significant event (birth, graduation, death, etc.) with a tree. Bobby loves that it allows both locals and visitors to connect to our area. The money also funds planting another tree somewhere else. Often, the second tree lands at a school.
Bobby shared some final thoughts on the community that makes Trees on the Coast possible. ‘There’s so much opportunity here and the opportunity comes from our community.’ This community is full of wonderful people to build relationships with. People who wish good things for each other!