Volunteers led by members of Meadville’s Shade Tree Commission marked Earth Day by planting 11 new trees along South Main Street between Diamond Park and Clark Road on Saturday.
The tree-planting effort will be followed by an Arbor Day event organized by the commission in Diamond Park on Friday at 11 a.m. Seven educational stations will inform visiting school children and others about all things arboreal, from how trees grow to the bugs that affect them. There will even be a tree-climbing station, complete with harness.
The Arbor Day event comes in the wake of the city being designated a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation for the 23rd consecutive year. The Tree City USA recognition signifies that a community has made the planting and care of trees a priority. The most recent example of Meadville’s arboreal efforts came in the form of a “TreeVitalize” grant from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which provided the trees that were planted on Earth Day.
The city’s trees make Meadville “a real pearl,” said Scott Sjolander, Shade Tree Commission member and urban forester with the Penn State Extension Crawford County office.
“It’s one of the most beautiful towns in the whole commonwealth,” Sjolander said. With 14 counties in the region he covers for the Extension office and duties that frequently take him to towns in the rest of the state, he has seen cities that suffer from a lack of trees.
Standing beside a young hawthorn tree that was soon to be planted along with several black gum and two linden trees, Sjolander said beauty isn’t the only benefit from an investment in trees.
“This is important to bring shade back to that gateway into our communities,” he explained as he looked to shovel-wielding volunteer crews spread every few blocks down the street. “Really, we like to shade the streets to make people feel welcome in town and cool our streets and make the whole place feel much more comfortable.”
Trees help increase people’s pride in their surroundings and increase their willingness to care for those surroundings, according to Sjolander.
“A lot of trees across town really keeps the look of the town nice,” he said.
For Shade Tree Commission member Kerstin Martin, Earth Day provided a useful reminder of the benefits provided by trees, including help with stormwater runoff, cooling in summer, cleaner air and even storage of excess carbon dioxide.
“Studies have shown that more trees mean safer neighborhoods,” she said, “because people spend more time outside — and it just makes are city prettier.”
Sjolander and Martin shuttled between about a half dozen crews of volunteers young and old spread along South Main Street on the chilly Saturday morning. The volunteers ranged from master gardeners with years of experience to middle school students who were less familiar with shovels and sylviculture.
Two crews of volunteers consisted of students from the Meadville Bulldogs Millionaires’ Club, a financial literacy and employment education group at Meadville Area Middle School led by Corey Razevich, an AmeriCorps VISTA coordinator for the group.
The group is designed to familiarize students with finances generally and the employment process specifically, from interviews to paying taxes, but Razevich and the students also take on a community service project each month.
“I love it,” said seventh-grader Lexia Holger. “I love coming out and helping.”
Mike Crowley can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Meadville’s Shade Tree Commission will hold an Arbor Day celebration on Friday in Diamond Park beginning at 11 a.m. Seven educational stations will provide information and activities related to trees.