‘Nature is great’: Arbor Day celebrated at WACS

Westfield tree board member Stephanie Blount.

WESTFIELD — “This tree is going to be here for 100 years, so it is not only for you, but also for future Westfield students, as well.”

These words, spoken by Westfield Academy and Central School STEM teacher, Clare Foley, summed up the excitement of the day, as the elementary students all took part in planting an Autumn Blaze Maple tree on Arbor Day recently.

The students were not alone, either. Westfield Mayor Dennis Lutes, Andrew Thompson, Director of Public Works for Westfield and the members of the Westfield Tree Board were present to participate in the event.

The members of the tree board who were present included Chairman Pete Holt, Don McCord, Wendy Santilli, and Stephanie Blount.

“I loved it,” said Foley, who has a background in Environmental Science and helped coordinate the event. “Anything to get kids outside and get them to enjoy nature is great.”

Westfield stem teacher Clare Foley helps elementary children come forward to the place where the tree will be planted.

Westfield Superintendent Mike Cipolla was also on hand for the program. “We hope the kids will remember this for years to come. We would like to make this an annual tradition,” he said. “With Miss Foley’s energy and knowledge, we expect this to take place for many years.”

Lutes officially kicked off the tree planting with a brief address. He first asked the students “How many of you have hugged a tree?” and a lot of hands went up.

Lutes spoke about how the tree board came to be in Westfield. In 2017, he related, it was noticed that many trees in Westfield were in poor condition. The village started a program known as ReTree Westfield.

In 2020, the Village Tree Board was created, Lutes said. Westfield hired forester Bruce Robinson as a consultant and Kyle Moore, as ISA certified arborist, which was required by the DEC, he said.

In 2022 and 2023, Westfield was named as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation, Lutes said. He read a letter from the Arbor Day Foundation, congratulating Westfield on receiving this honor a second time.

Westfield tree board member Wendy Santilli holds the maple tree while children come forward to put earth around its roots.

“When we got into this, we didn’t know what it was going to be, but it put us on the map,” Lutes said. “I want to thank the Village Tree Board and all those who worked so hard to save Westfield’s trees.”

After Lutes’ address, tree board member Stephanie Blount talked to the students about the actual planting of the tree. “Trees breathe just like you and I do, but trees breathe through their roots,” she said. “So, it is important to put a small fence around the tree to keep people from stepping on the ground around the tree.”

Blount went on to say that the hybrid maple, which was planted by the school playground, was only about 7 feet tall right now, but would grow quickly. “In 10 years, it will be 20 feet tall and it will provide shade for all of us,” she said.

Blount and tree board member Wendy Santilli held the tree in place as each student came forward and, using a small trowel, added dirt to the hole.

When the project was nearly complete, Lutes addressed the students one last time, saying, “Next year, when we come back, I expect all of you to have hugged a tree.”


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