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I Sit And Look Out: Two boro schools grow Arbor Day trees

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Arbor Day, which New York state observes on the last Friday in April, is important at two schools in Queens: John Bowne High School in Flushing and PS 174, the William Sidney Mount School, in the Crescents section of Rego Park. The entire month of April has been dedicated to environmental projects and tree-plantings under the MillionTreesNYC initiative.

Bowne, on the site of the former Agricultural Annex of Newtown High School, has a “grow-out nursery” of some 1,000 trees. Each year, about 300 containerized trees are grown to the right size for easy planting by students of all ages. The trees are also available to community gardens and parks groups with the stipulation that they must be planted on publicly owned land.

Arbor Day is a collaborative effort with some financial support from the Bartlett Tree Expert Co. through Trees New York and from the New York State Urban and Community Forestry Council. Nancy Wolf, one of the outstanding environmental educators in this area and a long-time friend and colleague of mine, is the coordinator and charged with outreach to schools and the community, the receipt of orders and making sure the orders are sent to the Central Forestry office of the city Parks Department.

It is not an easy task, but Nancy does it well. Parks foresters pick up the trees from Bowne and deliver them to schools and community groups.

Over the past five years, almost 500 schools have planted about 2,000 trees. Because of the growing popularity of Arbor Day, Bowne is considering an increase in the nursery numbers.

Many schools are regulars, ordering and planting trees each year. One of these is PS 174, where a wonderful kindergarten teacher, Pat Evens, has been cited by Nancy and others for her work. She and her students will be the subject of the next column.

The trees being offered this year are scotch pine, pitch pine, white pine, white spruce, red oak, white oak and black cherry. White pine is the sacred tree of the Iroquois nation. Pitch pine is a Southern yellow pine, but was grown in the Saratoga Nursery, so it is acclimated to this climate. White pines were used 200 and 300 years ago as main masts for sailing ships. Oak and cherry are prized furniture and floor woods and many antiques are made from them.

Within half an hour of the Arbor Day brochure going out electronically, Nancy was receiving orders — a good sign.

The deadline for ordering the trees is tomorrow, April 16, but you might still make it by contacting Nancy at jlnwolfinc@aol.com or 718-834-4589.

In its literature on its 2010 Tree Planting Drive, the National Arbor Day Foundation reminds us of these five basic facts: Trees keep us cool and save energy; clean the air we breathe; relieve stress, according to a study by Texas A&M University; add value to our world; and are our future.

When we plant a tree, we signal our hopes for that future. Let’s plant as many as we can as often as we can, especially on Arbor Day or any time during the month of April.

Happy Arbor Day!

Updated 5:54 pm, October 10, 2011
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