Atwater schools could get more trees

11/28/2013 6:44 PM

11/28/2013 9:54 PM

In the next year, Atwater schools may start to look a little greener.

The Atwater Elementary School District is collaborating with the Tree Partners Foundation to add trees to its campuses. The locally based foundation co-founded by Jim Williamson made a presentation recently to trustees and will be assessing the tree situation at all eight district campuses.

One of the first schools to benefit may be Aileen Colburn Elementary School on Heller Street. Its well went dry over the summer and more than a half-dozen young trees died for lack of water. Since then the school has been connected to the city water system.

Mary Avila, the Aileen Colburn principal, is hoping to get some replacements through the foundation, formed nine years ago, but there is nothing definite yet.

District Superintendent Sandy Schiber said Assistant Superintendent Linda Levesque and maintenance chief Alan Boyington will be assessing tree needs at each campus in the next few weeks.

Schiber said Williamson, a former school trustee, has been a longtime supporter of the district. She said low-maintenance trees are needed for shade, beautification and sometimes as a barrier to separate a school from a residential neighborhood.

Williamson said trustees were receptive to cooperative tree-planting efforts. He said he would be meeting with principals to determine their needs. The tree group recently completed projects at McSwain Elementary School and Buhach Colony High School.

Williamson said placing trees at Aileen Colburn Elementary will be a high priority, followed by Peggy Heller Elementary and Mitchell Elementary. The group favors trees that like the San Joaquin Valley’s climate.

Atwater Mayor Joan Faul has been involved with the tree foundation since its founding.

“It’s really a wonderful, fantastic program,” Faul said. “They always have programs going. It’s an organization that gets things done.”

Williamson values trees for several reasons, including their contributions to clean air and water, and their ability to provide shade, reduce noise and lower utility bills. The tree foundation’s board members include Faul, a retired college professor, Boyington and the city’s urban forester.

The tree foundation also has partnered with the Merced Irrigation District, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., the National Arbor Day Foundation, Merced College, local school districts and city governments and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Along with tree donations, the foundation offers seminars on planting, maintaining and monitoring trees.

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