Grant funds tree plantings throughout Woodlawn

Grant funds tree plantings throughout Woodlawn

Carmelo Frias, owner of the plaza at 901 Main St. in Pawtucket, helps dig a tree pit on Nov. 2 where 11 trees were planted with help from Groundwork R.I.
Groundwork R.I. looking for more sites to plant next spring

PAWTUCKET – From heritage birch to thundercloud plum trees, the Woodlawn neighborhood of Pawtucket is a bit greener thanks to Groundwork Rhode Island, which planted 32 trees in November with plans to add more in the spring.

“Tree planting aligns perfectly with our existing efforts to work within frontline communities such as Woodlawn to address climate change impacts,” said Kufa Castro, program coordinator at Groundwork R.I., adding that the program “has allowed our organization to grow Pawtucket’s tree canopy.”

The nonprofit organization, based at Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket, was one of 17 in the U.S. to receive funding from TD Bank’s 2020 TD Tree Days program. A $15,000 grant will allow staff and volunteers to plant more than 45 native trees in Pawtucket, which they’ve started this month.

“We’ve been trying to plant as many trees as we can, especially in areas that have less tree canopy and are vulnerable to heat,” Arleen Hernandez, Groundwork R.I.’s youth leader, told The Breeze.

For the past year and a half, Groundwork R.I., whose mission is to create “healthier and more resilient urban communities through environmental sustainability and economic opportunity,” has been leading a climate resilience project in Pawtucket and Central Falls. Dubbed Climate Safe Neighborhoods, it has identified residents’ concerns and ideas to help solve public health issues including urban heat island effect, flooding, and poor water quality in urban waterways, say organizers.

Castro said that when looking at surface temperature maps, Pawtucket and Central Falls stuck out because of their low tree canopy. The Woodlawn community is one of the neighborhoods in Pawtucket with the highest recorded temperatures in the summer. That affects the health of the community, Castro noted, because when it’s really hot outside, people don’t want to go out and exercise or use environmentally conscious modes to travel, such as public transportation or bikes.

As part of the tree planting initiative, on Nov. 2, Groundwork R.I.’s GroundCorp landscape team and Woodlawn residents planted 11 native trees at the Main Street Plaza, 901 Main St. in Pawtucket, along with Carmelo Frias, who owns the plaza. Frias said the trees will make a difference in the neighborhood and “will bring elegance to the plaza and provide shade and fresh air.”

In Woodlawn, Castro said, “it just felt like we were adding some love to that neighborhood” as well as creating a healthier area. Trees planted include heritage birch, thundercloud plum, Dakota birch, October glory maple, and Japanese zelkova.

Five trees were planted on residential properties in Woodlawn, including in Alex Lyte’s yard. “I can’t wait to see this plum and flowering cherry tree blossom in my backyard next year,” said Lyte, who received two trees.

The team also planted nine trees at Fogarty Manor on Roosevelt Street in Pawtucket in collaboration with the Pawtucket Housing Authority on Nov. 4, as well as seven trees at another Housing Authority property at 42 Park St. Jim Ruthowski, facilities director at Pawtucket Housing, helped find locations for the trees.

Castro said Groundwork R.I. is looking for more than 20 locations, in Woodlawn and Darlington, to plant trees in the spring. Any interested residents and businesses can contact him at .

Shelley Sylva, TD Bank’s head of social impact, said the company is honored to support the project “to expand the tree canopy and help provide a healthier environment, which is critically important this year as more people recognize the wellness benefits of spending time outdoors during the pandemic.”

The benefits of planting trees include helping to lower residents’ utility bills as well as decreasing people’s chances of having asthma, Hernandez said.

Other organizations that have worked with Groundwork R.I. on this initiative include the Empowerment Factory, the Woodlawn Neighborhood Association, the Pawtucket Central Falls Health Equity Zone, and the Pawtucket Central Falls Green Change Makers, Groundwork R.I.’s high school youth program.

Groundwork R.I. also partnered this fall with the city of Central Falls, which received a $20,000 TD Green Space grant to plant approximately 40 trees. Locations include at Whittet-Higgins Company on Higginson Avenue, where they planted American holly and eastern red cedar trees among others, and at Lincoln Almond Park, where Castro said they planted lilac saplings and red maples. “It was great to see so much community love and help,” he said of the volunteers.

Groundwork R.I. will be watering and maintaining the trees for two years, Castro said. Youth in the Green Change Makers program, who are working toward being certified as tree stewards, will assist with the upkeep.

Next year Groundwork R.I. will also be planting trees at Curvin-McCabe Elementary School thanks to funds from Collette Travel and Brown Family Medicine, he said.