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Franklin County Technical School receives grant for tree nursery

  • Shade trees line the street on Harrison Street in Greenfield. Franklin County Technical School is collaborating with the Greenfield Tree Committee and the Montague Tree Advisory Committee to create a tree nursery that will provide the towns new trees at a reduced cost. Recorder File Photo



Recorder Staff
Thursday, June 01, 2017

TURNERS FALLS — Three years ago, Kurt Richardson, an instructor in Franklin County Technical School’s Landscaping and Horticulture program, and Nancy Hazard, a member of the Greenfield Tree Committee, hatched an idea for how the Tech School could create a tree nursery for their students, providing shade trees for Greenfield and other towns at a reduced cost.

The idea came to fruition last year when David Detmold, chairman of the Montague Tree Advisory Committee, joined the effort and Richardson brought the school on board. The Tech School and the Greenfield and Montague tree committees wrote a grant proposal for the project, which resulted in an $18,000, five-year grant from the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts to create a tree nursery on the grounds of the school.

“This is a dream come true,” said Hazard. “We wanted to partner with the Tech School so that we could plant more trees in Greenfield and so that young people could learn about how to plant and care for trees. This in turn could lead to having skilled people in our community who care about and know how to care for trees for many years to come.”

Richardson said the plan is to plant 75 trees per year over the next five years. After five years, the students can harvest and sell trees from year one and use the money to buy more trees. At that time, the tree nursery is expected to become fully financially self-sufficient.

“Projects like this really fulfill our mission to provide services to the communities that support us,” Richardson said.

In Greenfield and Montague, there is a significant need to plant trees, according to project organizers. Many older trees in both towns are in decline and are being cut down. In recent years, more trees have been removed than planted, according to the tree committees. Additionally, the 2014 Greenfield Tree Inventory found that more than half of the street trees inventoried are aging Norway maples that are likely to die over the next 10 years. The Greenfield Tree Committee hopes to replace these nonnative trees with native trees and cultivars that support the local ecosystem.

“The Greenfield Tree Committee has a goal of planting 500 trees in 10 years. Our goal is at least 50 trees a year, and so potentially the nursery could provide most of the trees that we would plant in Greenfield,” Hazard said.

Detmold said the Montague Tree Advisory Committee was thrilled to hear about the grant.

“Most towns in Franklin County these days are too strapped financially to maintain their own shade tree nurseries any longer,” he said. “Now towns like Montague that contribute students and tuition to the tech school will enjoy a wonderful opportunity to purchase affordable trees to shade their streets and public parks, while watching the educational benefits of the tech school’s nursery program grow a new generation of tree-wise scholars who will graduate to bring arboriculture skills back to the wider community. This is a wonderful partnership.”

In addition to caring for trees in the nursery, it is hoped that students will plant and prune trees along Greenfield and Montague’s streets. Students will also learn how to identify trees, conduct site analysis and select appropriate trees for the landscape, install irrigation systems, learn about soil health and quality tree care, and about running a tree nursery business.

“We are excited to be able to have a tree nursery for our students,” said Jocelyn Croft, curriculum coordinator at the Tech School, in a statement. “The presence of a nursery creates an opportunity for the school to offer state-of-the art, hands-on landscaping skills to students that meet state requirements.”