If the air seems just a little bit cleaner this morning, thank the hundreds of volunteers who spent Saturday planting more than 500 trees across the City of Buffalo.
The endeavor, carried out on city streets by Re-Tree WNY and in a pair of Buffalo Olmsted Parks by the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, was part of an ongoing effort to repopulate the area of the trees lost in last year's surprise October snowstorm.
"Trees are important to the habitat and make the city a lot nicer," said Morgan Gress, a senior at Buffalo Seminary, who, along with more than a dozen of her classmates, joined volunteers to plant trees on the West Side. "I know a lot of trees were lost. We want to re-tree and make it like it used to be."
The girls, along with 28 neighborhood block clubs and other community organizations, took to the streets with shovels, planting a variety of species including crab apple and elm trees under the direction of Re-Tree WNY.
All of the trees planted were in the city right of way between the street and the curb. In all, about 70 different species of trees are being planted.
The effort is to replace about 30,000 trees in the region over the next five years, said Paul Maurer, co-chairman of Re-Tree WNY. About 7,400 trees were cut down in the city as the result of the storm.
"We like the feeling we're doing something that will have a lasting effect to it," Maurer said.
Added Art Traver, the urban forest manager who is serving as a consultant to the city: "If planted right, you have some trees here that will be around for hundreds of years."
While Re-Tree WNY efforts were going on with volunteers from the West Side to the East Side, more than 100 other volunteers were assisting the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy at Martin Luther King Jr., Cazenovia and South parks.
Maples, oaks and birch trees were planted in the parks. The 5-year-old trees were about 8 feet tall when they were planted, according to Joy Testa Cinquino, conservancy spokeswoman.
Volunteers included employees from M & T Bank, the Girl Scouts and other community members. M & T Bank donated $50,000 to the project.
The Buffalo Olmsted Parks system lost about 400 trees as the result of the storm.
"You always want to repopulate or reforest the parks but because of losing that many in one year and potentially more in the future, we're [more active]," said Testa Cinquino. "We not only appreciate the trees, but our ancestors appreciated them and future generations for years to come will as well."
It was the first of two weeks of tree-planting events in the area.
The parks conservancy will concentrate its efforts on Delaware and Riverside parks next Saturday. In all, 200 trees will be planted over the two-week period. There were 400 trees planted in Buffalo Olmsted Parks this spring, she said.
Re-Tree WNY volunteers plan to take their efforts to the suburbs next week.
Both organizations are still looking for volunteers. Anyone interested in helping Re-Tree WNY can go to www.retreewny.org or contact Maurer at 888-9766 for more information. Those wishing to volunteer at the parks can contact the conservancy at 838-1249, Ext. 14.