Childs Park in Northampton to get $25,000 worth of free tree work Friday in honor of Arbor Day

Last modified: Tuesday, April 22, 2014

NORTHAMPTON — They’ll be climbing trees, riding bucket trucks and feeding wood chippers in Childs Park Friday — all in the name of caring for trees.

For the first time in years, the 40-acre park off Elm Street near Northampton High School will get some badly needed TLC when as many as 30 certified arborists donate a day of work in honor of Arbor Day, an annual day dedicated to planting and caring for trees.

The work party is part of a statewide program spearheaded by the Massachusetts Arborists Association every Arbor Day. The effort typically takes place in various places in eastern and central Massachusetts but is venturing west this year thanks to Jay Girard, landscape manager of the Botanic Garden of Smith College.

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After working at a cemetery in Worcester and at an arboretum in Boylston in the last two years, he nominated Childs Park this year after talking with Michael Marcotrigiano, the director of Smith College’s Botanic Garden who also serves as a member of the park’s board of directors.

“He mentioned how the trees in Childs Park were in rough shape so I thought we could organize a (work party) in this part of the state,” Girard said. “We want to give back to the community and we have a skill set that a lot of people don’t have.”

Childs Park is a privately owned expanse of green bordered by Woodlawn, Prospect and Elm streets.

The volunteer service is intended to help organizations that need some professional assistance with trees on their property but can’t afford it.

According to Girard, the Childs Park effort drew enough volunteers that it’s expected they will complete about $25,000 to $30,000 worth of work at no charge. He said the volunteers are expected to bring four bucket trucks, a chip truck and a large chipper, and their own equipment. About half of the volunteers are trained tree climbers.

“We’re hopeful we can zip off a chunk of the park in one day,” Girard said.

Childs Park is open to the public, but its operations are funded by an endowment overseen by the Childs Park Foundation. That endowment has taken a hit in recent years, which is why the park is appreciative of the work to be done Friday, said David A. Murphy, the foundation’s president.

“It’s very exciting,” Murphy said. “A lot of this is work we would normally have to pay to have done, so this is extremely helpful to us. They can get to places we never could.”

Bequeathed by Annie Childs in 1950, Childs Park is described as a place for quiet reflection. It includes three large lawns and two natural ponds, an Italian-style garden house near a rose garden and formal gardens.

The park is open seasonally from May 1 through October, though Murphy said it’s unclear whether the park will be ready by the beginning of May this year. He said the late winter delayed spring cleaning by about a week, and park crews may need extra time to clear the debris left behind by the arborists Friday. Murphy has asked the arborists to focus on the tough-to-reach places first and, if needed, leave limbs and other debris behind for the park to clean up.

The companies involved in Friday’s Arbor Day event include LashCo Tree Service of South Hadley; Lyndon Tree Care & Landscaping of Northampton; Northern Arboriculture of southern New Hampshire; Dostal Tree Service of Easthampton; Larken Tree and Landscaping Service of Southampton; C.L. Frank & Co. of Northampton; Arbortech Tree Service of East Longmeadow; and Race Mountain Tree Services of Sheffield. Others participating in the effort include Eric Reynolds from the state Department of Conservation and Recreation and staff from the Botanic Garden at Smith College.

The Childs Park work is one of 25 projects throughout the state Friday, and is the only one in western Massachusetts, according to a list of projects on the association’s website. A year ago, members participated in 41 projects in town forests and botanic gardens, at public libraries and elementary schools, and in urban areas and rural spaces across the state. An estimated 3,000 volunteer hours and $250,000 in professional arboriculture services were donated in 40 Massachusetts communities.


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