Flushing, NY (March 1, 2008)- As part of the reauthorization of the 1990 Farm Act, Congress provided $20 million to begin a national tree-planting initiative. The National Tree Trust (NTT) was created to invest and use these funds. As its program was developed, a partnership was established with a number of large forest products companies, such as Georgia Pacific and International Paper. Through this partnership, millions of small tree seedlings were distributed to thousands of locations across the country. Volunteers in rural and exurban areas were able to use the seedlings and successfully execute planting projects; however, in urban areas, this system did not work well because the seedlings were too small to be successfully out-planted in most cities.
John Bowne High School in the Queens Borough of New York City became the first such nursery site in New York State in the late 1990’s. The project was sponsored by Manhattan-based Environmental Action Coalition (EAC), an environmental education not-for-profit organization. This sponsorship was assumed by the New York State Urban and Community Forestry Council in 2001; the Forestry Council remained the sponsor until January, 2007. It is currently being managed by a local Steering Committee under the sponsorship of Trees New York, a not-for-profit organization. This is believed to be the only high school-based grow-out nursery project in the country.
The distribution of trees from the Bowne grow-out nursery has reached every borough of New York City, through the outreach of the volunteer NYC Arbor Day Committee, which has been in existence since the 1980’s. The Arbor Day Committee, whose members are primarily formal and non-formal educators, has long sponsored teacher workshops and tree plantings for Arbor Day and was instrumental in the re-establishment of Arbor Day as a special day in New York State: the last Friday in April. Its wide-spread network has helped make it possible for the Steering Committee to effectively do its job of notifying the New York City Community of the existence of free trees. The Science Division of the New York City Department of Education has also become a major partner in outreach directly to schools.
The John Bowne school nursery project is a proven success. Therefore, its structure and activities can be a model for other such projects around New York State and other parts of the country. Each project will have its own local parameters, though knowledge of the experience of the original project and the activities of the sponsors in its development will be helpful.
John Bowne School Manual for School Tree Nurseries
New York State Urban and Community Forestry Council