(HELENA) Helena’s West Main Street is now a little greener, thanks to help from local volunteers.
On Saturday morning, about 30 people gathered south of downtown Helena. They were hard at work planting about 20 trees on the side of the road.
The volunteers included people of all ages. They dug out holes, added compost, placed the trees, secured them with stakes and added tree guards to protect them. All together, the work took just about 90 minutes.
The project was organized by Growing Friends of Helena, a nonprofit organization that helps plant trees around the area.
“Our mission is to beautify Helena through planting and diversifying the urban canopy here,” said board member Mackenzie Petersen. “So this is what we do.”
Last year, the city of Helena completed a major reconstruction project on West Main Street, widening the roadway and adding sidewalks and bike lanes.
“Somebody contacted Growing Friends last September and said, ‘The road’s done; I think it needs some trees,’” said board member Betsy Nordell.
The group then worked with city staff and with individual property owners to pick the right locations to plant and the best trees for each spot.
Petersen said the trees include lindens, maples, box elders, crabapples, an elm and a juniper. Most of them are fairly fast-growing, so those who helped plant them will soon be able to see the results.
“Hopefully in the next 10 to 20 years, you’ll see them look maybe what one would consider a mature tree,” said Petersen.
Organizers said they were grateful that so many people came out to take part in the planting project.
“We have a great community,” Nordell said. “Sometimes it takes a village, and this morning it was pretty heartwarming that we came out and within a couple of hours had all these trees planted and watered and staked and tree guards on them.”
Growing Friends of Helena was founded in 1990. It has helped residents plant more than 500 trees in the boulevards between sidewalks and streets, and provided $100,000 in grants for other projects in the Helena area.
Nordell said they are always looking for their next planting project.
“We keep our eyes open around town for places – new developments, new stores – that might need some trees, but we always love hearing from our members or the community if they see an area that needs some trees,” she said.
You can find more information about Growing Friends and their projects at their website, growingfriends.org.