Wayne James
Wayne James

About eight years ago, Wayne James got a dog.

James started walking his dog, named Skye, in nearby Tanyard Creek Park. During his walks, James noticed something. The trees were draped with ivy and other vines. Vines grew into the tops of tall pines and other trees that stood 40 or 50 feet tall or more.

“These vines — all the little trees, they smother those out,” he said. “All the new growth is getting killed out in a lot of places.”

So he decided to help.

James lives just up the hill from the park. He started spending a few hours each week pulling climbing vines such as Japanese hops and ivy from the trees. He’d take his hatchet and chop the vines away from bottom of the towering pines to break the connection between the roots and the runners headed up the trees. Soon the vines died away.

Tall trees stood unencumbered by vines. Short trees got more light.

Years later, James, 75, is still at it.

“Whenever it suits me, I pick up my hatchet and go work,” he said.

His work impresses neighbors. “Wayne James has worked for years and years and years and years to clean up Tanyard Creek Park,” said Barbara Kennedy, treasurer of the Collier Hills Civic Association.

“He’s cleared ivy and kudzu. He is single-handedly responsible for taking all the ivy off the trees in Tanyard Creek Park. He works tirelessly.”

He doesn’t get a lot of help. “Once in a while, people come by and see me working and say, ‘Oh, thanks for doing that,’” he said, “but they don’t volunteer to join in.”

A couple of times, neighbors have joined him in his work, he said, but usually he goes it alone. “People tell me, ‘You ought to get some people to work with you,’ but most people in the neighborhood are working. Besides, I don’t like to organize things.”

“He just is remarkable, in that he continues and is happy to do it,” Kennedy said. “I’ll just see him coming and going, sweaty and dirty, with his tools. He just gets in and does it.”

James doesn’t seem to mind. He likes the workout. He does other volunteer jobs, too. He works portions of two days each week at church-sponsored programs for drug addicts and the poor.

The work in Tanyard Creek Park, he said, was something that he saw just needed to be done. Once he retired from his career doing personnel work for governments, he had time to spend in the park. He’s worked mostly in Tanyard Creek Park, but occasionally he’ll wonder into the woods in another nearby public area and clear trees there.

“We can’t afford to pay taxes enough to have people paid to keep the vines off,” he said. “That’d be nice, but there’re higher values for our tax dollars.”

There’s plenty of vine-clearing to do. When he walks in the park, he sees areas he cleared years ago that may need a return visit. The vines are creeping back. He’s got his eye on what’s growing in Tanyard Creek Park.

“I walk the dog in it almost every day,” he said.

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.