Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Apr 25, 2017

University to plant 100 trees this weekend

Volunteers needed for morning, afternoon sessions Saturday and Sunday
By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Apr 19, 2017

Volunteers will plant trees at Maharishi University of Management this weekend thanks to a grant from Alliant Energy.

The local planting is part of a statewide program called Branching Out, financially supported by Alliant Energy and administered by Trees Forever.

Tom Brooks, chairman of the M.U.M. tree committee, said volunteers will plant 100 trees at a few different locations around campus. London planetrees will be planted along the sides of Badget Drive by the tennis courts.

About 35 white pine trees will be planted around the courts themselves to create a wind buffer. Brooks said the tree committee chose pine trees instead of deciduous trees because it doesn’t want leaves blowing on the courts.

“Once the pines have grown, I think you’ll notice a difference [in the wind on the courts],” Brooks said. “A lot of the trees that we planted around the tennis courts died. There are a lot of bugs and diseases attacking pine trees. It’s been a hard time for them.”

The group will also line Zimmerman Boulevard with a tree every 35 feet or so. Zimmerman Boulevard is the street that runs east-west from North B Street to the university’s swimming pool. Brooks said the trees planted there will include elms and redbuds.

The tree committee will organize two planting sessions on both Saturday and Sunday. The morning sessions will be from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and the afternoon sessions will be from 1:30-3:30 p.m. Any member of the public interested in planting trees can meet at those starting times at the outdoor tennis courts.

“We’ll probably need about 40 people in each session to plant these 100 trees,” Brooks said.

The committee has had a table set up at the Argiro Student Center on campus to encourage students to volunteer at the event.

This will be the third year M.U.M. has received a grant from the Branching Out program. Last year, the tree committee planted trees north of the men’s dome. This year’s grant is for just under $10,000. In all, M.U.M. has received $25,000 in tree-planting grants in the past three years.

“This is a fantastic program, and we appreciate Trees Forever and Alliant Energy for giving us this opportunity,” Brooks said.

Justin Foss, spokesperson for Alliant Energy, said his company sponsors the program because it reduces energy use and improves the environment.

“When a tree is planted properly, it creates shade in the summer, reducing energy needed to cool a house,” he said. “In the winter, it creates a wind break, reducing heating costs.”

Foss said Alliant Energy views planting trees as a long-term investment that will pay dividends in the distant future. He said Trees Forever manages the program and ensures Alliant is sponsoring a variety of trees. He mentioned that Dutch elm disease wreaked havoc on elm trees, and now the emerald ash borer is doing the same to ash trees.

“Part of what we’re doing is helping diversify the tree population so the next issue won’t create the same disturbance in the tree canopy across the state,” Foss said.

Foss said Branching Out started in 1989. Since its inception, it has paid for the planting of 1.4 million trees in Iowa.

Alliant Energy has a similar program for individual customers called Operation Releaf. It allows the company’s customers to receive partially subsidized trees.

“These trees would normally retail for $65-$125, and we sell them for $25,” Foss said.

Foss reminds customers to call 811 before they dig so that utility companies can mark the location of underground lines. He also wants customers to avoid planting trees below power lines, so Alliant doesn’t have to trim them when they grow tall.

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