A massive tree planting effort at Chadron State College this year has had a lot of help from above, according to those most involved with the project.
The more than 50,000 tree seedlings that were planted south of campus this spring have gotten off to a great start, thanks to frequent rainfall this spring and summer. It is hoped that the effort will result in a forested scene south of campus, like the one devastated by wildfire in 2006.
"I don't think we could have picked a better year in the last 20 or 30 years," said Lucinda Mays, the CSC horticulturist who led volunteers during the hand-planting portion of the project. "We were really, really fortunate."
The project got off to a slow start as a spring blizzard forced many of the volunteer groups to reschedule their planting sessions. Despite the scheduling nuisance, Mays said much more good came from the storm than bad.
"The blizzard made it hard to schedule, but it sure did make it easy to plant," she said. "The soil was damp at least 12 inches down, and we planted six to eight inches down."
And, the frequent showers into midsummer have given the fragile seedlings an occasional drink and helped increase the survival rate.
"I've lived here 11 years now, and I haven't seen anything like the timing of the rains this year," Mays said.
CSC alumnus Doak Nickerson, the district forester who secured the $50,000 grant from the Arbor Day Foundation to fund the project, was joined by staff of the Upper Niobrara White Natural Resources District to machine-plant the roughly 40,000 trees not planted by hand.
Mays said most of the trees are "green and growing," although a few have been damaged by deer. The plantings contain not only ponderosa pines, but other evergreens, shrubs and deciduous trees.
In all, about 52,200 trees were given a home in the 30-acre area. For 12,200 of them, Mays led more than 35 groups up the hills to hand plant in areas inaccessible by the machine planter. The groups represented businesses and organizations, campus clubs, school classes, athletic teams, college departments and youth organizations such as Boy Scouts and 4-H clubs. The 513 volunteers ranged from kindergarteners to senior citizens.
"I was really impressed with people's willingness to step up to the plate and help with this project," Mays said. "Before it began I didn't know how it was going to go, and I came away from it being really proud of the community. I don't know how the project could have gone any better."
Story by Justin Haag, College Relations