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Posted: January 3, 2009 6:32 p.m.

Making the shade

Grant helps Mansfield Elementary add tree canopy

Jennifer T. Long/

Planting for the future: (Crouching) Ted Wynne, from the Newton County Extension Office, and Scott Palma help plant a tree, along with (standing, left to right) Juan Martinez, Alberto Martinez, and parent Charles Lunsford Dec. 30 at Mansfield Elem...

Winter is the best season to plant trees and some took advantage of their holiday time off work to do so.

Several parents, school employees and Georgia foresters gathered at Mansfield Elementary School on the Tuesday before New Year’s to plant 40 trees outside of the school.

Beryl Budd, community forester with the Ga. Forestry Commission’s Sustainable Community Forestry Program, and first grade teacher Alicia Lindsey headed up the planting project. Budd and Lindsey knew each other from serving on the Mansfield Tree Board and had previously collaborated for an Arbor Day event when students planted a pine seedling on school property.

"We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could plant more?’" Lindsey said.

Budd told her about a Ga. Forestry Commission program called "Making the Shade." The program awards grants to schools for the planting of trees in recreational areas in order to cool down playground equipment. Since 2005, more than 500 shade trees have been planted at 13 schools as part of the program.

"The equipment can heat up to an excess of 100 degrees on a mild, 80-degree day," Lindsey said.

In addition to the cooling effects of shade trees, Budd pointed to other benefits such as improving air quality, reducing symptoms of AD/HD and better test scores from students with green views as well as creating more habitat space for local wildlife.

Lindsey said she wanted to plant as many varieties of trees as possible for educational purposes.

"The project ties into the curriculum because several different grades are to observe trees throughout the seasons and note their various changes," Lindsey said.

Around 20 species of trees were planted Tuesday from small decorated varieties such as Winterberries to large, long-lived White Oaks.

"These are good quality trees too," Budd said.

In addition to the $5,000 grant given by the Ga. Forestry Commission, volunteers and community businesses donated their time and services for the planting project.

Scott Palma Landscape and Bartlett Tree Experts provided equipment for digging and the city of Mansfield was on hand extending a water line so the newly planted trees would have the nourishment they need to establish their root systems in the crucial first year of growth.

"It’s kind of a living experiment," said Ian Campbell of Bartlett Tree Service’s use of new equipment called an air spade, which is handheld tool that produces a stream of supersonic air to effectively penetrate and dislodge most types of soil, while harmless to non-porous objects such as plant roots, buried pipes and cables.

While it will take a few years for the saplings to mature fully, Budd estimated that some of the larger varieties would begin to create shade by next summer. He said some of the trees could potentially live more than 100 years.

"We need more of this type of activity," Budd said.

For more information about Making the Shade or other urban forestry programs, visit gatrees.org.

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