Volunteers bring 1,800 young trees and shrubs to Marine Park
Volunteers on Friday, Saturday and Sunday braved rising COVID-19 numbers to plant more than 1,800 young trees and shrubs at the Salt Marsh Nature Center in Marine Park in a project led by the Parks Department.
Volunteers spent the mornings removing small trees and shrubs from 2-gallon plastic pots and planting them in pre-dug holes. Parks employees assisted volunteers in extracting tough and overgrown trees from pots.
Philip Kunhardt, an NYC Parks forester, guided volunteers to break up the roots and soil from their firm pot shape. Aerating of the roots helps them spread out and grow underground, according to Kunhardt.
“This is a pretty traumatic experience for the tree, going from being watered and fed by nursery caretakers to being in the ground and having to live off the land. We want to be careful with them, but we also want to give them some tough love,” Kunhardt said.
Twenty-five volunteers helped plant trees and shrubs on Sunday, according to Nichole Henderson, senior stewardship manager at NYC Parks. That’s a marked increase from participation at Parks’ summer events, where it was typical for only three or four volunteers to show, she said.
Henderson aims to cultivate a nurturing environment for volunteers of all skill levels, and encourages New Yorkers to explore their parks through volunteer opportunities. “We don’t want folks to be intimidated; if you’ve never planted a tree before, try and learn,” she said.
During the week of Nov. 15, the 11234 ZIP code (Bergen Beach/Flatlands/Marine Park/Mill Basin) saw 83 new cases and a 3.5 percent seven-day positivity rate, according to city data. Henderson emphasized on-site safety over the weekend, encouraging volunteers to work on trees 6 feet away from each other and to keep masks on.
Among the volunteers were curious adults who are learning horticulture as a diversion from their professions.
Bruce Jones, a student at Oregon State, is studying horticulture in pursuit of a career change. He works in lighting at Eastern Effects, a film studio where the FX drama “The Americans” was filmed. His horticulture program is entirely online, and he wants some real-world experience with some dirt in his hands and earth beneath his feet.
Jutta Kirchgeorg is a user experience designer at an information technology firm. Her job requires her to work late nights and weekends, and she wanted a change of scenery. She is taking virtual classes at Brooklyn Botanic Garden with the aim of receiving a certificate of horticulture.
According to the Botanic Garden, the program is for horticulturalists and home gardeners to learn about plant care with a focus on the urban environment. Many use the certificate as an opportunity to pursue a career in horticulture.
Among the trees planted over the weekend were winged sumacs, black chokeberries, purple chokeberries, black elderberries, and red maples.
These trees will go dormant during the cold season and will wake up in the spring. In five to 10 years, volunteers can come back and see the trees’ growth from their skinny and barren state this weekend.
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