Alexandra Weisse and her boyfriend, Dan Pallies, were told to dig Saturday.
That, along with some very basic instructions, was all they needed to hear.
“We were instructed of the diameter and depth of the hole,” said Weisse, 23, of Schenectady, as the two surrounded the roots of a 10-year-old sugar maple with soil, filling in the hole they had just dug along a grassy bank on Norwood Avenue.
“It’s very satisfying work, to do manual labor and then end with something prettier than what you started with,” said Pallies, 20, a Union College junior from Brookline, N.H.
Joe Vitale, forestry crew leader for the city, held the 10-foot-tall tree in place before grabbing a bucket of water and turning the soil into mud.
“It’ll feed the bottom and get any air voids out, because the air voids will kill the tree,” he said.
The volunteers joined about 10 others Saturday in planting 10 sugar maples in the Mont Pleasant neighborhood. The event honored Arbor Day, officially celebrated in New York on Friday.
“This is an area that the [Department of Transportation] cleared because there had been some erosion on that slope there,” said Betsy Henry, president of ReTree Schenectady, the nonprofit that organized the effort. “It was a very open area that the neighborhood thought would look good with some shade trees.”
ReTree worked with the Mont Pleasant Neighborhood Association to identify areas in need of trees. Seven trees were planted on the bank, two were planted across the street by the tennis courts, and one was planted in front of a Schuyler Street home.
The trees should grow to about 30 feet within 15 years, Vitale said.
“They will get quite large,” Henry said. “They’re big shade trees, and they’ll have nice fall color.”
A total of 32 trees were planted across the city Saturday, contributing to an effort to plant 100 every year. The 32 trees cost an estimated $3,500 and were paid for by the city, National Grid and private donations, Henry said. Trees also were planted at Vale Cemetery and in the Bellevue, Central State and Upper Union neighborhoods.
The volunteers planted bare-root trees purchased from Schichtel’s Nursery in western New York, rather than the more traditional “balled and burlapped” trees, so the holes only had to be 18 inches deep and 3 feet wide, Henry said.
“The trees are less expensive, and we can plant them with volunteers instead of having to use heavy equipment,” she said.
While the tree-planting effort helps enhance the environment — offering shade, storm-water control, and a habitat for birds — the benefits are not limited to ecological.
“There’s a neighborhood benefit, or a community benefit, for a commitment to beautifying the neighborhood and also getting residents involved in planting trees,” Henry said. “It’s a big step toward being invested in the neighborhood.”
Weisse, who grew up in Schenectady and graduated from Union College last year, was happy to help beautify her hometown.
“I hope they flourish,” she said.