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Volunteers replace vandalized trees

Dec 08, 2016 02:34PM ● Published by Tori LaRue

About 200 West Jordan residents came to the city’s tree planting service project to replace trees that had been damaged by vandals. (Reed Scharman/West Jordan Fire Department)

Gallery: Volunteers replace vandalized trees [3 Images] Click any image to expand.

By Tori La Rue | tori@mycityjournals.com


Around 200 volunteers gathered at the West Jordan Veterans Memorial Park at 8 a.m. on Nov. 5 to plant 76 trees, replacing those that had been vandalized during the summer. 

The acts of vandalism began on July 24 and continued for more than a month until a suspect was arrested in connection with the acts on Aug. 28. In all, 80 trees were damaged in West Jordan and South Jordan. 

West Jordan’s Urban Forester Ty Nielson said “Heartbreaking” wasn’t a strong enough word to describe the feelings had about the vandalism.

“Trees are alive to me, so I was very angry and hurt,” he said. “I couldn’t believe anybody could do that, but now we are moving on.” 

Nielsen had already planned on bringing a group of community volunteers together on Nov. 5 to plant 15 new trees along 4800 South, so he decided to expand the project to include replacing the vandalized trees. He applied and received the Community Partnership Grant from the Utah Community Forest Council to purchase more trees and set up the community tree-planting service project with the help of Scouts working towards their Eagle, Councilman Dirk Burton and the community.

Volunteers spent their Saturday morning working in the “frostbitten weather,” and for many, anger about the vandalism was replaced with unity and camaraderie at the event, Nielsen said. 

West Jordan city officials served the volunteers a breakfast of pancakes, eggs and bacon before Nielsen demonstrated how to properly plant a tree. Then, the volunteers broke into four groups, each led by one of the Scouts, and planted trees in a designated area. 

Grayson Palesh, 17, led the group who was working at the park pavilion area near 1825 W. 8030 South. Palesh heard about the project from his father Mark Palesh, who works as West Jordan’s City Manager. 

“It was not awesome that someone came here and ruined these trees,” he said. “Trees give us fresh air, so when I was looking for an Eagle Project, I knew this was a project I wanted to do and a way I could be a way for me to give back to the community.” 

Grayson Palesh rounded up volunteers from his high school, Hillcrest, to help with the event and commented on the good that teens can do in the world if they put their minds to it. 

Dean Smith, Ethan Patton, and Gavin Wissinger also led teams of volunteers at the event for their Eagle Scout Projects. 

Anaelise Fisher, 13, heard about the tree-planting in her health class at school and invited her family to join her for the Nov. 6 project. 

“It’s sad to see how just one person’s act of vandalism can change an environment, but we are all here today showing that evil can’t win,” Anaelise said. 

Her older sister, Sydney Fisher, 16, agreed, saying she was grateful to serve and encourage her friends to do so, too. 

“It’s important for teens to come to these things and get involved in the community and not just think they are the center of the world,” Sydney said. “It’s important to serve and see that there’s more to staying at home and watching movies if you give and get outside of just yourself.” 

Burton, who represents District 4 where much of the vandalism occurred, said he was grateful for the community support and good turn-out. 

“We didn’t expect this many people really, but I shouldn’t be surprised,” he said. “West Jordan has a history of volunteering.” 

While the trees may take a couple years to get a big as they were before they were vandalized, the unity the community felt from doing the project was immediate, Burton added.     

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