Rain loosens the dirt for volunteer tree planters in Rochester

By Laura Horihan

The Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

Despite the rain and mud, people came out in droves Saturday to help plant 500 trees during the RNeighborWoods Community Tree Planting event.

This year, RNeighbors and the Rochester Park and Recreation Department focused on the Manor Park and Diamond Ridge neighborhoods in and near the Country Club Manor area in northwest Rochester.

City forester Jacob Ryg acquired a $50,000 grant to address Rochester's potential problem with the emerald ash borer.


On Saturday, holes for the bare-root trees were already dug, so all volunteers needed to do was place a tree in the hole, shovel and scrape the dirt in, and then cover the area with mulch.

Bill Bertschinger, who lives in the Bamber Valley neighborhood in southwest Rochester, helped out so he could learn how to plant a tree in his own lawn later.

"We've got nothing but ash trees," Bertschinger said while he filled a hole in the light rain. "Once we take the roots out, we'll plant something new. I just want to make sure I know how to do it right."

He didn't seem to mind the rain. In fact, he said, it made scraping the dirt back into the hole a little easier.

"I'm willing to help with anything that will save the city a little time and effort," Bertschinger said.

Up the street, Deb and Dave Schmitt had just finished planting a London plane tree in front of their house. Earlier, they received instructions and some fuel in the form of bagels, juice and coffee at Manor Park.

"Even if we didn't have a tree right in our front yard, we would have joined in," Deb said. "It's a good way to meet your neighbors, and (planting trees) is a nice thing to do."

RNeighbors executive director Rene Jones Lafflam was pleased with the turnout.


"I imagined there would be seven us doing all the planting, so I'm really happy to see this many," Lafflam said.

Before the afternoon was over, she estimated, about 500 people were spread out over a two-mile radius. A bus full of young people came toward the end of the event to finish the mulching.

"I can't believe that over half of the people participating are from this neighborhood," Lafflam said. "It's not just the usual tree huggers. We've got all kinds of different tree huggers this time."

Laura Horihan covers news in Olmsted, Fillmore, Dodge and Houston counties. She can be reached at (507) 285-7619.

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