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Tree-planting blitz kicks off at county park

Tree-planting blitz kicks off at county park

LAKE STATION — Trees can do plenty of good, environmentally, economically, and even emotionally. All it takes is someone to plant, trim, and maintain them.

For Arbor Day and Earth Day, the Student Conservation Association partnered with CommuniTree to plant about 500 trees around Northwest Indiana. That effort kicked off Saturday with a blitz planting of trees at Three Rivers County Park.

“We’re trying to increase the green canopy,” said Sam Vergara, Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana program manager for the Student Conservation Association.

These new trees, Vergara explained, help in carbon sequestering, the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide, from air to soil. All living things need carbon dioxide, and this process combats greenhouse gases from nearby industries.

Additional tree plantings will take place in Hammond, Gary, East Chicago and Whiting.

Planted between the county park and I-65 are eastern red cedar, American hornbeam, and paw paw. These trees, Vergara said, are all native to Northwest Indiana and will increase the area’s biodiversity.

Also, Vergara said, because of their proximity to the busy roadway, the trees will provide a natural buffer and catch water runoff.

The Student Conservation Association is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to build the next generation of conservation leaders and inspire lifelong stewardship of the environment by engaging young people.

In Northwest Indiana, the CommuniTree program grew out of the need to promote tree planting, after-planting care and maintenance of trees for a healthier and more diverse tree population.

Drew Hart, regional urban forestry coordinator for the U.S. Forest Service, said trees also clean the air and provide stormwater protection.

“Maximizing air quality is among the benefits trees provide,” Hart said, also citing natural beauty. “With all we’re going through right now, trees help reduce stress levels while helping us experience nature.”

This area of Northwest Indiana is also on the migratory flyway path for birds that seek out trees for food sources, Hart said.

Daiva Gylys, who works with the SCA, said trees benefit communities by serving as noise and pollution buffers.

Gylys said tree plantings attract local volunteers, including students. Hope Stone, 19, an environmental science major at Indiana University Northwest, works for Lake County Parks and Recreation.

“I wanted to have more of an impact in my local environment,” Stone said. “This is the most amazing thing I’ve ever done. These trees can live up to 1,000 years. To be part of this, it’s pretty cool.”

Hope brought a friend, Angiada Garcia, 13, a seventh grader at Chesterton Middle School, who was enjoying the experience. “Just helping the environment, that’s just awesome,” she said.

Ayan Mohammed, 18, a senior at Lake Central High School, came for fun and volunteer hours. “I like digging the holes,” he added.

Nibal Fares, 19, a sophomore biology major at IUN, came on a friend’s invitation.

“It’s kind of therapeutic, digging holes,” she said. “It takes your mind off things.”

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