On the day dedicated to appreciating the value of planting trees, that is exactly what a work detail of Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) staff, a handful of students, and a state senator did at a park in southcentral Pennsylvania.
The planting was a few trees short of that achieved in Nebraska on the first Arbor Day in 1872. The state Board of Agriculture back then said "set aside one day to plant trees, both forest and fruit," and offered prizes to those who planted the largest number of trees. More than one million were planted that day.
"One of the cheapest and easiest ways to protect and filter our waters is to plant trees," state Senator Rich Alloway (R-33rd District) said during a break from wielding a sledgehammer. He spent hours driving in stakes that support tube shelters to protect newly-planting seedlings. Senator Alloway's Chief of Staff, Jeremy Shoemaker, and Legislative Director Chad Reichard were also there to help.
Pennsylvania is significantly behind in meeting its clean water commitments to reduce the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment runoff into rivers and streams. Trees are an effective solution.
Trees and their roots can filter as much as 60 percent of nitrogen, 40 percent of phosphorus and nearly half of sediment in polluted runoff. A single mature oak tree can absorb over 40,000 gallons of water per year. Trees also provide flood control, cool water for brook trout, wildlife habitat, and even improve the air we breathe.
Senator Alloway represents Adams, Cumberland, Franklin, and York counties, and is a Pennsylvania member of the Chesapeake Bay Commission. He has been a strong advocate for clean water and for planting trees to keep rivers and streams clean.
"We are behind in the number of trees we are supposed to be planting," Senator Alloway said. "I've challenged my colleagues in the Senate and my fellow neighbors to go out and plant trees." The Senator has set a goal to plant 10,000 trees in his district this year. "We are on our way," he added. "We've got quite a few in the ground already, but we need more help from you. All citizens can go out and make a difference."
Seniors from Shippensburg and Big Spring high schools helped with the Arbor Day tree planting, as did Marel King, Pennsylvania director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission. Shippensburg Township Supervisors Linda Asper, Steve Oldt, and Marc Rideout were there to offer encouragement and appreciation.
The crew worked under the supervision of CBF restoration specialist Kristen Hoke.
The student involvement was also part of CBF's new Mentors in Agricultural Conservation job-shadowing program in Pennsylvania. About 25 students signed up for the mentoring program to do restoration work and learn first-hand about conservation projects on farms.
When they were finished with the planting, Big Spring senior Truman Heberlig wanted to know if he could get groups of students help plant trees at other projects.
With financial support from the Arbor Day Foundation, CBF purchased roughly 14,000 trees through local conservation district tree sales for planting this year. Last year, CBF gave away 12,280 trees to 148 landowners in 14 Pennsylvania counties through the same partnership. The trees are used to plant new buffers, as was done in Shippensburg on Arbor Day, and to repair existing streamside buffers.
The same evening the Arbor Day trees were planted, CBF Watershed Restoration Program Manager Clair Ryan was in Nebraska accepting the national "Good Steward Award" from the Arbor Day Foundation. It was awarded for CBF's efforts in planting trees, adding buffers to streams, and improving water quality in the Commonwealth.
Just weeks before that, CBF Pennsylvania received the prestigious Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence for helping landowners plant thousands of trees, and reducing pollution of rivers and streams in the Commonwealth.
—B.J. Small, CBF Pennsylvania Media and Communications Coordinator