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Juan Diego Environmental Club Plants Trees Alongside TreeUtah

Jul 01, 2016 08:13AM ● Published by Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | julie@mycityjournals.com


Last spring, the Juan Diego Catholic High School Environmental Club planted about 100 saplings along the Jordan River trail as part of an Earth Day service project.

This spring, club members decided to revisit those one-foot-tall trees and plant larger trees nearby.

“We hoped to see those from last year get bigger as well,” teacher Gregg Alex said, who advises the club. “TreeUtah picks out native trees that should survive without any special care.”

Alex, who introduced students to community involvement through the school’s WeatherBug equipment in 2014, said that when the club was talking about community service projects, planting trees was the first thing that came to their minds.

“The kids love planting trees and to them, it doesn’t seem like work,” he said. “They just want to help improve the environment in their community.”

Juan Diego’s Environmental Club meets every other week for a couple of hours to talk about environmental issues. They oversee the school’s recycling program and recently, they discussed a Sundance Film Festival documentary on climate change. Currently the club is petitioning to eliminate beef on the school menu since it has an impact on global warming, Alex said.

“When the kids learned how much methane cows generate and how they have a major impact on greenhouse warming, they were so moved they decided to start a petition,” he said.

However, Alex said that petition may take a while before students see the change.

“With planting trees, they get immediate gratitude as well. They can see how easy is to have an impact on their environment by planting and taking care of the trees and trail,” he said.

TreeUtah Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator Hannah Whitney said that about 10 Juan Diego club members volunteered, teaming up with 30 others on May 7 for two hours to plant 125 trees and shrubs as part of the Salt Lake County’s One Million Trees program. The program, which began in 2007, has a goal to plant one million trees in the county by next year.

TreeUtah leads community plantings to plant large trees in public spaces throughout Utah, including city parks and school playgrounds. According to their website, this program works to build public awareness and understanding of the needs and values of healthy community urban forests.

 Every tree planted in a public park or school is onestep closer to the goal of reaching one million trees, Whitney said.

“Last year’s seedling didn’t do so well, so we think these saplings in one-gallon and five-galloon containers will do much better,” she said. “They’re mostly Narrow Leaf Cottonwoods and Peach Leaf Willows.”

Before planting, the group learned a little about the background of TreeUtah from Executive Director Amy Collins and about tool safety and how to plant the trees from planting coordinator Nate Orbock.

“They learned the level they needed to plant, how to dig a hole straight down and not to force it into the hole so the roots can reach out to get water,” Whitney said.

After planting, the groups watered the trees and shrubs to “help them get established,” she added.

Then, they helped pick up trash in an area that was being restored and cleared of some invasive trees.

 “A lot of them asked questions so they could gain an understanding of taking care of trees, of caring for their environment and learn how to become better stewards of their community,” Whitney said.    λ

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