By Jack Flynn
Springfield, MA (March 28, 2012)- On Kipling Street, landscapers are working to turn back the clock to May 31, 2011, one cherry tree at a time. Thanks to the Realtor Association of Pioneer Valley, dozens of trees uprooted by the June 1 tornado are being replaced in the Kipling Street neighborhood and elsewhere on the storm’s Westfield-to-Charlton path.
As part of the larger tornado recovery effort, the Springfield-based Realtors group plans to plant 150 trees this spring in a partnership with Stephen A. Roberts landscaping. “We know there’s a lot of need out there,” said Brian Sears, president-elect of the Realtors Association. “Everywhere I go I am reminded of the loss of trees. This will add to the tree canopy, which is a benefit to us all,” he said.
The canopy is a bittersweet memory on Kipling Street, where 120-foot oaks and smaller trees were toppled by winds estimated as high as 160 miles per hour as the tornado cut a path through Sixteen Acres. “Everything was sawed off,” said James A. Trainor, who arrived home to find a century-old oak tree bisecting his garage roof.
Nine trees were felled in Trainor’s yard alone, and the street was transformed from a wooded hilltop to a windswept hillside. “You can hear the wind howling,” said Trainor, a manager at Smith’s Billiards on Worthington Street. The landscapers arrived about 10 a.m. Tuesday, and planted an eight-foot high cherry tree in his backyard.
Roberts, a Springfield resident who graduated from nearby Cathedral High School, said response to the free-tree initiative has been enthusiastic.
Between the tornado and the freak October blizzard last year, the public’s appreciation for trees has grown, whether for shade, sound-reduction or scenery, Roberts said. “Everybody we’ve talked to wants a tree,” he said.
The project will cost about $20,000, all of it financed by the Realtors’ charitable fund, which draws donations from the national, state and Pioneer Valley chapters, along with individual members, Sears said. The plantings – which will include elm, maple, dogwood, crabapple and cherry trees – began Monday and will continue for two weeks, Sears said.