Thanks to two Montclair moms, the community of Bradford Elementary School will don their garden gloves and pick up their shovels to plant some trees as part of a new “Trees for Bradford” campaign, this Saturday, October 1.
Trees For Bradford is the brainchild of Imke Oster and Rachel Weber. Oster is also co-chair of the Montclair Environmental Commission.
They realized how much character—and sun protection—the canopy of mature trees brings to Montclair’s school grounds. They recognized that many of the trees—planted more than one hundred years ago—were reaching the end of their life spans and new trees weren’t being planted fast enough. It takes decades for a young tree to reach maturity and provide shade.
Imke and Rachel knew Montclair’s children would be put at risk for sunburn and would avoid playing on overheated playground equipment. They knew children would play longer and more comfortably on a playground with a little more shade, so they approached the Board of Education. The BoE saw the value in the idea but couldn’t fund tree planting on its tight budget.
So Imke, who has a daughter in second grade at Bradford, and Rachel, who has a daughter in first grade, decided to take matters into their own hands and see if they could roll out a program at the schools, raising funds for trees directly from students’ families.
They chose to try out the program at Bradford, with hopes of expanding it out to other Montclair schools next year. The Bradford PTA recognized that the tree replanting effort was a worthy investment and made $2500 available. Direct donations from Bradford parents brought in more money, enough to pay for nine trees and a planting crew with a mini digger.
The contributions also made it possible for Imke and Rachel to purchase bigger trees than they’d planned—including a red beech, white oaks, Princeton elms, a sunset maple, a corkscrew willow and a decorative Persian Ironwood tree.
The sites for the trees have been chosen, and the Bradford community will get a chance to help plant some of the trees this Saturday, October 1, in conjunction with two big fundraisers for the school—the Fall Book Fair and the Annual Pancake Breakfast.
In addition, nine Bradford families will be needed to each adopt a tree—that is, keep it watered while it gets established.
Imke says she’s willing to share what she’s learned with anyone else who wants to spearhead a similar effort at his or her own school.
It’s one of the areas I’m most passionate about,” she says, of the tree replacement effort. “Everyone who comes to Montclair says, ‘Oh, how gorgeous the trees are.’ But they’re getting older and dying,” and we’re in danger of losing that. “That’s why I’m so excited to see those trees at Bradford!” she says.