Nov 03, 2012 Ned Campbell Uncategorized
The Town of DeWitt celebrated its new status as a Tree City USA Friday by planting a tree outside the David G. Klim Learning Center, located within Springfield Gardens near Le Moyne College
State and town representatives as well as children from the People In Action program — which is run out of the Learning Center — were present to honor the designation awarded to the town in April. According to DeWitt Tree Committee chair Ann Stevens, the all-volunteer committee planted more than 60 trees in 2011 and has planted 44 this year.
“I get a lot of support from the town board … but most of these people are volunteers, and they do a tremendous service to this town,” Town Supervisor Ed Michalenko said to start the celebration.
He then engaged the students of the PIA program, a non-profit organization that offers pre-school as well as afterschool programs to residents faced with limited resources, according to townofdewitt.com.
Michalenko asked a roomful of attentive kids why trees are so important, eliciting responses of “they give us oxygen,” “they provide habitat for animals” and “they give us wood for fire and furniture.”
The supervisor, who has a PhD in environmental science, then asked what would happen if he cut down all the trees in DeWitt: “During the summer, what would happen?”
He answered his own question: It would be a whole lot hotter.
“Trees help moderate our environment,” he said. “They make it cooler in the summer. The forest helps cool the temperature. It helps move rainwater … Trees do an awful lot for us, and we need to recognize that and manage that as a community.”
Mary Kramarchyk was at the event representing the state Department of Environmental Conservation, for which she is the Urban Forestry Coordinator.
“When I come to the town of DeWitt I’m very, very happy that we have such a supportive supervisor in the town, because he helps us plant more trees when we need them and where we need them,” she said.
Brian Skinner, Senior Forester for National Grid, talked about the company’s 10,000 Trees and Growing program. He said it was started in 1998 following the Labor Day storm “to help communities replace their trees in a smart way by planting the right tree in the right place, primarily putting low growing trees underneath the utility lines.”
DeWitt has participated in the program for the last five years, and in that time National Grid has helped fund the planting of more than 80 trees in the community, Skinner said.
The program awards municipalities that become Tree Cities by planting a tree on Arbor Day, and Skinner planted the tree, a Kousa Dogwood, that now stands outside the Learning Center.
“Most people think Arbor Day is in April and typically, in New York State, it can be,” Skinner explained, “but any community can designate Arbor Day any day of the year they want. So this year DeWitt decided to have it at this time of the year … when everybody is available.”
The tree, often called a Japanese Dogwood, has a life expectancy of 60 years, will grow to around 18 to 20 feet and will bloom creamy white flowers in late spring, he said.
“It’s not subject to a lot of the ills that the native Dogwood is,” he said. “The native Dogwood is disappearing, it’s being killed by a couple different diseases, where this one is pretty much pest-free.”
PIA is designed to meet the needs of children and adults whose primary language is not English. It is located within Springfield Gardens Apartments, which has become a preferred location for refugees emigrating to the U.S., particularly from war-torn European and Middle Eastern countries, according to the town website.
He asked that the kids not hang from the tree’s branches, as they break easily.
“We are very excited to be able to have more trees and have it donated here,” said Christine Manchester, who is the PIA program supervisor as well as the town naturalist. “The kids love to take care of things.”
Stevens, the Tree Committee chair, closed the ceremony by saying the committee will be planting eight similar trees this week along the Learning Center’s parking lot, thanks to a Federal Community Development Block Grant in the amount of 10 trees awarded through the Cornell Cooperative Extension.
“So you’ll have lots of trees with flowers in the spring,” she said.
Ned Campbell can be reached at email@example.com.