ROOTS RUN DEEP: Regreening secures Tree City USA designation for 21st consecutive year

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A line formed at last year’s Arbor Day tree giveaway hosted by Regreening Greenfield, at Courthouse Plaza in downtown Greenfield. The local nonprofit, which recently earned the city a Tree City USA designation for the 21st year in a row, will once again host the Arbor Day tree giveaway on April 21.

Submitted photo

GREENFIELD — The city of Greenfield was recently designated a Tree City USA for the 21st year in a row.

According to the Arbor Day Foundation, which grants the designations, “residents of your community should be proud to live in a place that makes the planting and care of trees a priority.”

Longtime Hancock County resident Tere Payne has led the charge in getting Greenfield designated a Tree City each year since 2001.

It was around that time that Payne joined Regreening Greenfield, a nonprofit focused on promoting the importance of trees throughout the community.

“Shortly after joining Regreening, I learned about Tree City and thought it would be a good thing for us to pursue,” said Payne, who has long had an appreciation for trees of all kinds.

She lives along a private road in eastern Hancock County where a handful of homes are situated in a 20-acre forest.

Payne said she didn’t develop a true appreciation for nature until middle age.

“There’s so much information about how they impact air quality and the general quality of life. There’s some expectation that the more trees we plant, the more we can do to combat climate change,” she said.

As the Facebook administrator for Regreening Greenfield, Payne has been amazed at how the page’s number of visitors has grown over the last couple of years.

She and fellow volunteers post frequently about tree-related topics, from tips on planting and nurturing trees to information on the best parks and tree-lined trails to visit throughout the state.

The trees Regreening helps plant throughout the city provide a host of benefits beyond just aesthetics, said Josh Gentry, maintenance operations manager for Greenfield Parks &Recreation.

“As cities grow, if the urban tree population isn’t growing at the same rate as the city, you end up with an asphalt oasis,” said Gentry, who serves as the main liaison between the parks department and Regreening volunteers.

“That doesn’t help with pollution; it doesn’t help with runoff. It heats up during the day and holds that heat through the night,” he said. “Because of all those reasons, trees are really important in an urban setting.”

Gentry said Regreening Greenfield volunteers take on the role of running a local forestry program, since the city doesn’t currently have an urban forestry program of its own.

“They are the lifeblood of that part of our reforestation projects. They’re constantly inventorying the trees along the streets and in those common areas around the city,” he said.

Gentry said one volunteer in particular — Sally Parsons — makes sure to track when any of those trees are damaged or removed.

“She makes sure we get replacements in-kind, and we add as many (trees) as the budget allows each year,” he said.

Payne is thrilled to see how community leaders have embraced Regreening Greenfield’s efforts over the years.

She said it took some time to build support back in the beginning, but that local leaders are now fully aware of just how good the Tree City USA designation is for the city.

To be recognized, a city must have a mayoral proclamation regarding its stewardship of trees and must spend six dollars per capita each year on tree-related activities, which Payne said Greenfield surpasses each year.

Strategic planting has also become more valued, she said, as Regreening Greenfield has worked diligently with the city over the years to perpetually plant trees.

Last year, the nonprofit took on cataloging the entire inventory of trees along city streets and sidewalks, not including park areas.

“That’s been a great project, especially with this new software that allows you to analyze all kinds of things,” said Payne.

Regreening Greenfield is always seeking new members to help continue its mission, she said. Members meet near the start of each year to create plans for the coming year, including the annual tree giveaway each Arbor Day, which falls on April 29 this year.

To learn more about the tree giveaway or other Regreening Greenfield events, visit facebook.com/RegreeningGfield.