NORTH LIBERTY– “It blows out here even when the wind isn’t blowing,” said North Bend Elementary Principal Brenda Parker as she looked toward the expanse north and west of the Clear Creek Amana school in North Liberty. In the winter, strong northwest winds buffet the school building and often fill the faculty parking lot with snow.
But, thanks to a unique partnership and a little effort on the part of the students and staff, relief should be coming within the next few years.
Across town, North Central Junior High (NCJH) students also planted trees to bring relief, but this time from the harsh sunlight that beats through the school’s south-facing windows. There, eight sentinal ginko trees will grow quickly enough to provide shade within a year or two, and increase the school’s energy efficiency measurably. Plus, said NCJH principal Jane Frey, “they’re going to be so beautiful.”
Trees Forever, a non-profit organization based in Marion, teamed up with the Linn County REC to provide a windbreak of nearly 100 trees at North Bend school, for which the REC purchased arborvitae, Norway spruce and white spruce trees from Kelly Tree Farm near Clarence. The company also funded NCJH’s trees, purchased from Forever Green Nursery in North Liberty, as part of a larger landscaping project planned by the school’s PTO.
Trees Forever was created in 1989 with a mission of planting and caring for trees and the environment, building community and promoting environmental stewardship, by Trees Forever founder and CEO Shannon Ramsey. Since then, the organization has helped communities conduct local tree plantings and reforestation efforts in Iowa, Illinois and throughout the Midwest. Its partnership programs, conducted in collaboration with local energy companies, conservation departments, farm bureaus, government agencies and other land stewardship entities, include Branching Out, Iowa’s Living Roadways, Our Woodland Legacy, Growing Futures and We Dig Your district, among others. Ramsey noted this is the program’s first opportunity to work with Linn County REC.
“They were very excited about working with school groups, as well as adding trees as part of the schools’ energy efficiency plans,” said Ramsey.
In North Liberty, students, staff and Trees Forever representatives dug holes, placed trees and tenderly tamped the dirt around them in mass planting efforts at both schools on May 3 and May 5. Despite chilly breezes and intermittent rain throughout the week, enthusiasm wasn’t dampened.
At North Bend, three-row windbreak was placed to block and redirect the northwest wind. Mark Pingenot, Field Coordinator/Arborist with Trees Forever, explained that the trees will disturb the wind, causing it to flow up and over the parking lot and school.
“It’s badly needed out here,” Parker said while digging a hole. Reduced energy costs should be seen within the next five to 10 years for North Bend school, which was designed with energy efficiency in mind, as was North Central.
“It’s just been a sheer joy of mine watching the kids plant trees,” Parker said.