Little Diggers help tree-planting project

Zane Tatem, 3, left, and Madelyne Binkowski, 8, shovel top soil to the base of a newly-planted tree at the greenhouse in Schenectady's Central Park Tuesday.

Zane Tatem, 3, left, and Madelyne Binkowski, 8, shovel top soil to the base of a newly-planted tree at the greenhouse in Schenectady's Central Park Tuesday.

Local pre-school children helped plant trees at the Schenectady Central Park Sustainability Living Center and Greenhouse on Tuesday to counteract the aftermath of a severe storm last year called a derecho.

The tree-planting project at the park aims to replenish the tree stock after punishing winds and thunderstorms on Oct. 7, 2020 damaged a number of trees. At the park on Tuesday, some 20 children ages 3 to 5 in Cornell Cooperative Extension’s “Little Diggers” program participated in the replanting event.

National Grid pledged $240,000 to fund new trees as part of its Capital Region Tree Program and in partnership with Schenectady, Albany and Rensselaer counties. The funding facilitates the restoration of parks and vegetation that were damaged as a result of the storm, which produced tornado-like winds, severe thunderstorms, and flash floods across the Capital Region.

National Grid allotted an approximate budget of $150 per tree, and Schenectady County Soil and Water helped order the trees, dug the appropriate space, and donated mulch to the community project. 

“Last year’s storm ravaged Schenectady County,” said Sarah Pechar, an executive director at Cornell Cooperative Extension. “We are excited to revert some of that damage while providing an educational yet fun experience for the children.” 

The tempest caused mass power outages throughout the Capital Region with over 200,000 National Grid customers affected with blackouts. Wind speeds were measured at over 100 mph were reported in eastern New York and western New England, leading to over 120 reports of damaging wind. 

“There was a targeted approach in planting the trees as we wished to find a space where they would have the most impact,” said Sara Mae Pratt, Schenectady County legislator and chairwoman of the Environmental Conservation Committee.  “Children learn through play, so this will serve as an exceptional educational opportunity.”

Local mom Angela Tatem brought her son Zane to participate in the gardening activity, organized in conjunction with the Cornell children’s program. 

“The Little Diggers program is amazing,” said Tatem. “The instructors are great and truly feel like family. I am not an outdoors person so this provides my son with an opportunity to appreciate plants and nature.”

Pechar said Cornell Cooperative Extension will continue to expand its programs at the sustainability center and the group is building a children’s garden for children to learn about the environment.

“Every time Zane comes to a Little Digger’s event he brings a plant home,” said Tatem. “He waters the plant and marks its growth. This program has cultivated him into a caring person. It’s an extremely valuable experience that cannot be taught, that’s why we are out here no matter the weather conditions.” 

Last week, National Grid also oversaw the planting of 40 new trees in Niskayuna. Residents of Dean Street chose the types of trees they wished to be planted along their block. 

“The storm affected all of us and did considerable destruction to our neighborhoods,” said Laurie Poltynski, regional executive for National Grid. “Trees were chosen as we wanted something long lasting to replace that damage.”

This is only the start of National Grid’s tree-planting program. The organization has committed to planting 10,000 trees in both urban and rural areas of upstate New York. 

“This endeavor shows we are committed to the beautification and investment in our neighborhoods,” Pratt said. “We want to give a sense of pride to all of our communities.”

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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