JOPLIN, Mo. —
Rain showers did not slow down volunteer efforts Saturday as more than 20 people gathered in Schifferdecker Park to unload nearly 1,000 trees that are destined for local residents who lost trees in the May 22, 2011, tornado.
Ric Mayer, community forestry recovery coordinator with the Missouri Department of Conservation, said that more than 11,500 trees have been distributed to Joplin and Duquesne residents over the past two years.
“We’re in the middle of a two-year program to reforest Joplin,” Mayer said. “We got another thousand today that we hope to put into yards through December before we get another shipment in next spring.”
Applications for free trees are available at the Joplin Parks and Recreation Department’s maintenance location, 3010 W. First St., and at Duquesne City Hall, 15th Street and Duquesne Road. The trees are being made available in a joint project by Forest ReLeaf of St. Louis, the Missouri Department of Conservation, and the cities of Joplin and Duquesne. ReLeaf was responsible for the trees that were delivered to the park Saturday.
“Every time we get a new shipment from ReLeaf, we organize our volunteers to unload them into our grow nursery,” Mayer said. “After this weekend, all of our trees will be set up to go to Joplin homes.”
The trees are made up of native species to the area, including a variety of oaks, redbuds and black tupelos. Having those native trees available is what Missouri Master Naturalist member Val Frankoski hopes will help increase the regrowth of natural resources taken away by the tornado.
“Putting the right tree in the right place just makes perfect sense,” Frankoski said. “It will help bring the right insects back, which will attract birds. It will really help start so much rebuilding in our area, not only for our environment but also with the lives of the people impacted by the tornado.”
Frankoski has volunteered with the project nearly a dozen times since its inception. With the estimated 20,000 trees that were lost to the storm, many residents are getting a much-needed boost to local lawns. Mayer said that the project has put trees, in addition to residential yards, in locations like the Elks Club, Community Support Services and various churches.
“We want these new trees cleared out while there is still plenty of time in the planting season,” Mayer said. “With the rains coming in the fall, it will give them plenty of time for root growth before winter hits.”
The city has a list of trees on its website, www.joplinmo.org, in addition to an application for trees. Mayer said that Empire District Electric Co. also has information on its website, www.empiredistrict.com, concerning where to plant trees in a yard.
“We’re putting trees in areas based on where utilities are and where they won’t interfere with power lines by growth,” said Ric Mayer, of the Missouri Department of Conservation. “If we are going to reforest Joplin, we might as well do it smart and safe.”