Volunteers brave rain, mud to plant trees in Harrison

November 24, 2018

A little rain and a lot of mud didn’t stop community volunteers from planting trees in Harrison on Thursday.

“Whoever said it was easier with this wet stuff...,” Michael Kalwarski said as he was planting a white pine along California Avenue, not finishing his sentence.

Nearly 30 volunteers turned out to plant 27 trees in a few places around Highlands Golden Rams Stadium.

It’s being funded with a $125,000 grant through the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and The Pittsburgh Foundation. The money also will pay for a stormwater project in the township.

Kalwarski, 67, an Allegheny Ludlum retiree, said this is the fourth year he’s taken part in planting trees in Harrison.

Because of the mud, he said, “This is the hardest.”

“I enjoy trees. I like trees. I hate to see them cut down,” he said. “It makes the community look a lot better. Plus, it gets us all together.”

Another 13 to 15 trees are to be planted in the spring, township Commissioner Chuck Dizard said.

“This is the third and fourth planting that the Harrison Township Tree Committee has done,” he said. “It is making a huge difference in the community.”

A half-dozen species were being planted on Thursday: eastern white pine, river birch, swamp white oak, European hornbeam, bald cypress and American elm.

Brian Crooks, a forester with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, said a variety of species were being planted so if pests or disease target one tree, they’re not all lost.

The species chosen all are tolerant of urban conditions and are good for wildlife habitat, he said. That includes the insects and caterpillars that will use them for homes, and the birds that will then feed on the insects.

Crooks said fall and early spring are the best times to plant trees because they’re dormant. It’s less stressful on the trees and helps their transplanting be successful.

It was the third tree planting Chris Miller has helped with.

“It makes the community a nicer place to live,” he said. “Plus, it’s actually fun.”

Jamie Kunselman of Indiana, Pa., was planting trees with her boyfriend, Terry Geracia, of Harrison, who works as the executive chef at Allegheny Valley Hospital.

“It’s actually been kind of fun even though it’s rainy and muddy -- a little bit harder to do with the mud because it’s a little heavier,” she said. “We’re just trying to make it a little bit nicer.”

She was trying to not get too dirty, “but, eventually, you just kind of give up.”

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