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Sports stars support tree planting in schools, neighborhoods

  • Subject: [cg] Sports stars support tree planting in schools, neighborhoods
  • From: Don Boekelheide <dboekelheide@yahoo.com>
  • Date: Tue, 7 Dec 2004 18:44:19 -0800 (PST)

PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 7 /PRNewswire/ -- The Philadelphia
Eagles joined state, city and school officials today
at Richard Wright Elementary School in North
Philadelphia to kick off plans to plant 300 trees at
15 elementary schools and five park sites across the
city as part of TreeVitalize, a public-private
partnership to restore tree cover to the five-county
Philadelphia region.

Wright Elementary is the first school within the
Philadelphia School District to benefit from a
$125,000 donation presented today by the Eagles. The
Eagles made the donation as part of the team's 'Go
Green' initiative, championing care for the
environment and recycling.

"Go Green is more than a play on words," said
Christina Weiss Lurie, Philadelphia Eagles owner and
president of Eagles Youth Partnership. "We at the
Eagles recognize our responsibility to the
environment, both as an organization and as citizens.
Recycling, using renewable resources and tree
planting, are all central to this effort. We are
focusing our tree planting at schools because we
understand the relationship between healthy children
and a healthy environment. We encourage other private
businesses in our community to partner in this program
as well, to help TreeVitalize achieve its goals."

In November, as a result of the Eagles' donation,
volunteers from Temple University and the Gibson
Baptist Church planted 14 sugar maple trees in a grass
strip that rings the asphalt schoolyard and parking
lot. An additional six golden raintree and flowering
cherry trees were planted at the church, adjacent to
the school. Church members have agreed to help care
for all the new trees.

"Over the next 20 years, these sugar maple trees will
grow to tower 40 to 50 feet over this school,
providing children with shade and greenery in an
environment that is otherwise lacking natural beauty,"
said Michael Lester, assistant state forester for the
state Department of Conservation and Natural
Resources, (DCNR) which oversees TreeVitalize.

"Studies have shown that exposure to green and nature
is good for our children, and that views of trees and
shrubs can increase concentration and reduce
violence," Lester added.

According to mapping by DCNR, tree cover in this North
Philadelphia neighborhood registers close to zero
percent.

To prepare for today's ceremony, third-grade students
at Wright Elementary composed tree poems and adorned
their new trees with paper decorations. During the
ceremony, Eagles players Michael Lewis and Sheldon
Brown helped students place their leaf-shaped poems on
the newly planted trees.

The selection of school and park sites within the
school district's elementary schools is underway. High
priority will be given to those public elementary
schools that are located in neighborhoods with low
tree cover, have adequate spacing for at least 10
trees, and can link the planting to an environmental
education program. Schools where community members are
trained in tree care and are willing to help care for
trees will be favored.

"On behalf of the 200,000 students in the Philadelphia
School District and the School Reform Commission of
Philadelphia, we would like to thank the Philadelphia
Eagles for such a generous contribution to the
TreeVitalize program," said Paul Vallas, Chief
Executive Officer of the Philadelphia School District.
"This program will provide trees to public schools so
that teachers and students will use them to enhance
the environment around their schools."

The Fairmount Park Commission, who oversees the
planting and care of 250,000 street trees in
Philadelphia, will manage the planting projects at the
schools.

"The Fairmount Park Commission is so pleased to be
partnering with the Eagles, the School District and
the Commonwealth in the greening of our region," said
Fairmount Park Interim Executive Director Karen Lloyd
Borski. "For decades, Philadelphia has been recognized
for its commitment to urban arboriculture and this
wonderful program will continue to enhance that
reputation."

Launched by Governor Edward G. Rendell on Arbor Day
this year, TreeVitalize aims to plant more than 20,000
shade trees in neighborhoods and 1,000 acres of
forested riparian buffers in Bucks, Chester, Delaware,
Montgomery and Philadelphia counties. The $8 million
program targets neighborhoods in older cities,
boroughs and townships where tree cover is below 25
percent. Tree cover refers to the percentage of land
shaded by trees and shrubs.

TreeVitalize is designed to halt that loss and
revitalize older communities, improve air and water
quality and enhance the quality of life for citizens
living in cities and towns. Studies have shown that
even a single street tree can increase a home's value
and lower its energy use. It will provide local
governments, which many times lack urban forestry
resources, with the financial and technical tools to
encourage tree planting and stewardship.

In addition to coordinating resources to support tree
plantings, TreeVitalize aims to train 2,000 volunteer
citizens in proper tree care techniques. These
citizens will organize future tree planting projects
and educate homeowners on proper tree care and
planting.

DCNR has partnered with the state Department of
Environmental Protection; Aqua PA; Philadelphia
Eagles; PECO, an Exelon Co.; U.S. Forest Service; PA
Horticultural Society; Morris Arboretum; and PA
Landscape and Nursery Association. TreeVitalize has
reached more than half of its $8 million funding goal.
The Commonwealth's contribution of $3 million is
funded through DCNR and DEP.

For more information on TreeVitalize, log on to
http://www.treevitalize.net. Philadelphia public
elementary schools interested in participating in the
TreeVitalize tree planting should contact the
Fairmount Park Commission at (215) 683-0220. To learn
more about the Eagles 'Go Green' initiative, visit http://www.gogreen-eagles.com.


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