VEAZIE, Maine — Town employees, volunteers and schoolchildren have been busy beautifying the town over the past week.
Veazie received a gift of 44 trees from Project Canopy, a community tree program initiated by the Maine Forest Service, and has been planting them on town-owned plots from the Buck Hill Conservation Area to the Veazie Community School.
Students headed outdoors Friday morning to help plant seven of those trees around the school.
“One of the great things about this project is that it’s for the community as a whole,” said Dave Wardrop, Veazie’s town forestry consultant, as he watched a group of students rake and smooth soil into a hole that became the new home for a young autumn purple ash tree. “Plus, it gives the kids a chance to get outside.”
A group of around 20 first-graders came out to see the tree after a crew of students finished packing in the fill. When the the kids settled in, standing in a circle around the tree, school Principal Scott Nichols asked them why trees were important.
“They make air!” one boy shouted eagerly.
“Sometimes they grow fruit!” a girl offered.
The trees came as a gift from Dutton’s Nursery, owned by Beverly and Bob Dutton of Morrill, which is shutting down and donating its entire stock of more than 1,000 trees of 75 species to towns and cities statewide. Project Canopy is in charge of distributing the trees.
The values of the 44 Veazie trees range from $45 for the more common, younger trees to $715 for a less common crimson king maple that had a longer time to develop in the nursery.
Fir, crab apple, lilac, serviceberry, birch, white oak and ash trees also have new plots in Veazie’s public forested areas, including the entrances to McPhetres Farm Forest and the Buck Hill Conservation Area.
In all, the trees are worth more than $10,000, according to Wardrop.
“We never would have been able to buy all these trees,” Wardrop said. “The town is capitalizing on a great opportunity here.”
He thanked Dutton’s Nursery and Project Canopy for the donations, and the 20 or so volunteers who donated more than 100 hours of work to bring the trees to Veazie and get them in the ground.
At the edge of a wooded area in front of Veazie Community School, Wardrop and Jon Parker, a Veazie town councilor who volunteered his time and his company’s equipment to plant some of the town’s 44 new trees, dug a hole for one more tree.
The first-graders lined up and waited as two students helped lower a 1-foot white oak seedling into the hole. They then took turns stomping down the soil around the tree, which they adopted as their own.
Parker suggested the students come back to the tree as eighth-graders and have their picture taken to document not only their own growth, but also the growth of the oak.
The kids decided that since this was their class’s own tree, they should give it a proper name.
“Mr. Tiny” was a popular choice, with about half the students chanting the name.
But one of the boys contested that the tree would grow and shouldn’t be saddled with a name like “Mr. Tiny.”
He suggested “Mr. Big.”