Several organizations and various levels of city governance gathered together this week to launch the beginning of a new venture at the North Tonawanda Botanical Gardens on Sweeney Street.
About 230 tree seedlings were planted in support of a nursery. The city’s environmental committee, along with members of the Youth, Parks & Recreation Department, Department of Public Works and North Tonawanda school district, provided materials and assistance to establish a seedling nursery at minimal cost. Local Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts worked together, as well, in establishing the nursery.
The project was initiated by Steve Behrns, who is a member of the environmental committee and a graduate of the State University of New College Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse.
He discovered a state Department of Environmental Conservation program that gave free trees out through schools. Behrns saw it as an opportunity to help local youth learn about the natural world and the value that trees play in it, by not only planting the trees but caring for them as they grow.
“Students become aware that they can play a role in protecting the environment through personal involvement in establishing a grove of trees,” said Mayor Rob Ortt. “Ultimately, it is hoped that the experience will help them make intelligent decisions about conservation and use of natural resources.”
While the trees were free, it was recognized that the harsh growing conditions with some North Tonawanda soils and the need to water and protect from unwitting lawn mower damage made it desirable to grow the seedlings for a couple of years to develop height and root systems to sustain them.
Paul Lehman, a volunteer member of the environmental committee, said it was also a chance to showcase community involvement.
“This project is an example of cooperation between multiple entities making something happen to increase our urban forest without spending a lot of money,” he said.