WILLIAMSBRIDGE — Second grade students from the Bronx Community Charter School joined with the Bronx River Alliance, the New York City Parks Department, the Arbor Day Foundation and TD Bank to plant trees on Friday in the Bronx River Forest.
The group planted about 200 pin oak, sugar maple and persimmon trees north of the Allerton Ballfields in the forest to celebrate Arbor Day. The project was financed by a $20,000 grant to NYC Parks from TD Bank Green Streets, a program that supports innovation in urban forestry.
The saplings are meant to replace a large tree in the park that fell down and help prevent invasive species from moving in, according to Maggie Greenfield, director of programs and development at the Bronx River Alliance.
This was a bigger problem in the area about 15 years ago, when the forest was “really overgrown” with invasive plants, Greenfield continued. The river was quite dirty at the time as well, filled with trash and even cars.
The tree that the saplings are replacing fell down due to Hurricane Sandy-related issues, said Michael Mendez, conservation manager at the Bronx River Alliance.
Greenfield emphasized that work with the new trees would not be done once they were in the ground.
“You can’t just plant them and walk away,” she said.
The goal of the Bronx River Alliance is to plant 600 trees in the forest with 200 volunteers by the end of the year.
Chris Whitney, a second grade teacher at Bronx Community Charter School, referred to planting trees in the forest as a "natural extension" of work students do at the school. They study subjects like water clarity, and the school places a strong emphasis on environmentalism and taking responsibility for the community in its curriculum.
"We're activists and change makers, and this is just part of it," Whitney said.
NYC Parks Bronx Borough Commissioner Hector Aponte saw the event as an opportunity to instill a respect for the environment in children while they were still young.
“At an early age, they’re learning about trees,” Aponte said. “They’re learning to appreciate them.”
Aponte appreciated the weather for the event as well.
“It’s a beautiful day,” he said. “What more could you ask for?”