Issued April 23, 2015

Time:  Friday, April 24, News Conference at 5 p.m.
Place: John E. Horan Garden Apartments, 730 Tacoma Road
Event:  Largest Erie tree-planting in decades with children ages 6-14 and many volunteers, youth clubs, and Housing Authority partners participating.

The Erie Housing Authority, dozens of residents and their children, Authority staffers, volunteers, and community partners such as the YMCA Kids Club, the John F. Kennedy Center, the Quality of Life Learning Center, Girl Scouts, and the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, are participating Friday, April 24 – Arbor Day – in one of the largest tree plantings in the history of the City of Erie.
The participants will plant 200 seedlings of various species in “tree nurseries” like the ones planted by Wangari Maathai, a 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner for her Greenbelt Movement that addressed the wholesale deforestation of Kenya.  Maathai established 6,000 nurseries, managed by 600 community-based networks, involving several hundred thousand women and men, resulting in the planting of 40 million trees.
Inspired by Maathai, the Erie Housing Authority and its partners will plant 1,000 native trees in nurseries at the John E. Horan Garden Apartments, Lake City Dwellings, Erie Heights, Pineview, and Harbor Homes.

Wangari Maathai

Community volunteers will include the Erie City arborist, master gardeners, and other friends of the Authority.

Besides Friday’s planting of 200 seedlings at the John Horan Garden Apartments, 250 more will be planted at Erie Heights on April 29, with the rest to be planted in the fall at the other locations.

Because the trees are 18-inch seedlings, they will be planted in “Wangari Maathai” nurseries in groups of 50 to 100 trees.  Species to be planted include Washington Hawthorne, Black Locust, Red Maple, Red Mulberry, Red Oak, English Oak, and Serviceberry.  Ten species in all will be planted.

The seedlings will be in their nurseries for three to five years until they are old enough to survive on their own.  Then they will be transplanted to areas throughout public housing.  Some trees will remain at their original sites to provide small groves which will provide excellent habitats for birds, small animals, and children!

For the children of public housing, the plantings are not a one time event, but are rather an ongoing educational component, which has included lessons by Sister Pat Lupo, OSB, of the Green Team at the Garden Apartments, and by others, such as Lori Metalonis, outreach worker for the Erie County Library.

The lessons cover topics such as trees and their importance, parts of trees and their habitats, how to plant trees, the meaning of Arbor Day and most importantly about Wangari Maathai and how one person changed a country and inspired a neighborhood half a world away.

The Authority has purchased children’s books on Maathai – “Wangari Maathai – The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees” – that it has distributed to HACE youth centers and libraries to be read to the Authority’s young residents.

The Benedictine Sisters of Erie have contributed $3,000 for the tree nurseries noting their connection with Mount St. Scholastica College in Atchison, Kansas, the Benedictine College from which Maathai graduated in 1964 – the same year that  HACE Executive Director John E. Horan graduated from St. Benedict College, its sister Benedictine school in Atchison.

According to Sister Anne Wambach, OSB prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, this project shows, “concern for the environment, the knowledge of the importance of trees, the power of one special woman; and, the addition of beauty to the City of Erie, whose nickname is the City of Trees.”  
“The Nobel Peace Prize committee honored Wangari Maathai for her contributions to sustainable development, democracy and peace,” Horan said.  “She proved that one person can make a difference. Her education and hard work changed a country.  Maathai will provide the inspiration for the Housing Authority and our residents, especially the youth of public housing, to plant and care for 1,000 trees throughout our public housing

For more information, call Horan at 452-2425.