Planting a legacy: A Tree For Thee’s effort begins at Point Gratiot

OBSERVER Photos by M.J. Stafford Volunteers from A Tree For Thee plant trees at Point Gratiot Park in Dunkirk on Thursday.

It’s a lot more open than it used to be when you go into Dunkirk’s Point Gratiot Park these days. Numerous trees near the entrance and along the nearby Lake Erie shoreline were destroyed in recent years by the emerald ash borer.

On Thursday, an effort began in the area to ensure that future park visitors can see towering trees again.

A Tree For Thee planted 82 trees near the Point Gratiot entrance last week, in about three and a half hours. Mary Louise McGraw, the organization’s founder, said they intend to plant a total of 185 trees at the Point.

“We will be planting again Monday and we will have a third planting, just not sure when,” she said. The group will also plant 26 trees at Wright Park.

A Tree For Thee got plenty of help. City Department of Public Works employees assisted them. John and Charles Rosier of Forever Greens in Springville, which is supplying the trees, were also on hand.

Richard Rosier of Forever Greens in Springville, Dunkirk Councilperson Nancy Nichols, A Tree For Thee founder Mary Louise McGraw, and Forever Greens’ John Rosier pose for a photo Thursday at Point Gratiot in Dunkirk. A Tree For Thee planted 77 trees in the park Thursday, and more are on the way.

McGraw mentioned that Southern Tier Environments for Living, based in the old Cardinal Mindszenty High School, “decided they should get involved in a community project. So they sent four mechanics over today and will do so Monday.”

City Councilperson Nancy Nichols was also there, taking credit for her role in the plantings. McGraw came to her with the original idea for A Tree For Thee and Nichols, as chair of the council’s DPW committee, invited her to speak about it at a meeting and work with city officials on it.

“I handed the ball over to her,” Nichols said. “She did a remarkable job.”

McGraw said her group coordinated with the Chautauqua County Soil and Water Conservation District to get appropriate trees for sandy, windy Point Gratiot.

A Tree For Thee paid for the project by selling individual trees and commemorative plaques to go with them. McGraw said, “210 applications were sent in for trees and plaques. The response was three times more than we expected.”

The group had to turn away about 25 applicants because they missed the application deadline, she added.

The plaques were not installed Thursday, but will be at a later date.

McGraw noted that many 1970s and 1980s Dunkirk High School classes got together to purchase memorial trees. Some purchased four or five, she said.

McGraw was particularly honored that St. Columbans on the Lake Retirement Home chose to celebrate its 100th year by ordering a tree.

“It’s been a wonderful effort… I have crossed paths with people who are so in love with the park,” she said.

“We are so thankful. This is exactly how it should be done, it should be a community driven effort to reforest this park.”


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