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Wichita Nonprofit ICTrees Ending Operations, Leaving Behind Lasting Impact

Courtesy ICTrees
Volunteers plan trees near College Hill Elementary School.

After four years of planting trees across the Wichita area, ICTrees is ending operations.

Managing ICTrees "became a full-time job," said founder Barney Barnhard, who's stepping down from his role as the head of the the all-volunteer, donation-based organization.

"Nobody else on the board wanted to commit the time ... that it takes to lead it," he said.

“We would have liked to have seen it perpetuate, but we just didn’t know how to take it to the next step, which would be fully funded with staff and people to move it forward. The time came when we just could no longer continue.”

Since it started in 2015, the nonprofit has planted nearly 3,000 trees, mostly at churches, schools and charities.

“We would tell different organizations that wanted them, 'If you come up with volunteers, we’ll give you all the trees and all the supplies that you need,' " Barnhard said.

He started the organization with a group of fellow master gardeners as a way to counter tree loss in the city. He says there are numerous reasons a tree might need to be removed: They might be damaged, or diseased, or just old.

"They die," Barnhard said. "They have a life span."

But new trees aren't planted at the same rate. ICTrees wasn't able to plant on city-owned property — its trees didn't match the city of Wichita's requirements — but about half of all trees the nonprofit did plant were at schools, including in Wichita, Goddard and Maize.

The districts were "happy to have them," Barnhard said.

"I think the biggest impact, or the impact that I would like to be able to see 25 years from now, is what the public schools look like."

The organization won't buy or plant any trees this year. Barnhard says he will start liquidating equipment in March, and the revenue will be donated to the Sedgwick County Extension Arboretum.

Follow Nadya Faulx on Twitter @NadyaFaulx. To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.

Nadya Faulx is KMUW's Digital News Editor and Reporter, which means she splits her time between working on-air and working online, managing news on KMUW.org, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. She joined KMUW in 2015 after working for a newspaper in western North Dakota. Before that she was a diversity intern at NPR in Washington, D.C.