“Free-A-Tree” Project, October 4, 2006

For Immediate Release
October 4, 2006
Contact: Terry Joshi, Volunteer Coordinator
914-969-4142 or
Ann-Marie Mitroff, Coalition Coordinator,
914-375-2151

Saw Mill River Coalition and New York State Department of Transportation Continue with "Free-A-Tree" project in their battle against invasive vines

The Saw Mill River Coalition and the New York State Department of Transportation, in conjunction with the Westchester County Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation, plan to continue to build on the initial success of their Free-A-Tree project, which supports volunteers in their efforts to remove the invasive vines that are strangling trees and shrubbery along the Saw Mill River Parkway. The ultimate goal of the Free-A-Tree project is to inspire local organizations, municipalities and businesses to adopt and maintain their own segments along the Saw Mill River Parkway. The Saw Mill River Coalition* and the DOT have instituted this vine removal pilot project to rescue native vegetation, restore the stream buffer, and preserve the area’s biodiversity.

The 2006-2007 kick-off date for Free-A-Tree, Saturday, October 28, was selected to coincide with National “Make A Difference Day.”

A ubiquitous problem throughout the Northeast, fast-growing, tenacious vines are among the worst of the foreign plants that threaten to overwhelm local habitats. Oriental bittersweet and porcelainberry, the two most common invaders to be seen along the area’s local roads, are considered “invasives,” a term used for plants that crowd out native plants and slowly strangle trees in their upward spiral, eventually shrouding tree canopies from the sun and creating a blanket over under-story plants and shrubs. This significantly diminishes the value of wildlife habitat, in terms of food sources and nesting areas, and has a negative impact upon the number of species that use the river corridor, which parallels the parkway corridor for many miles.

On Saturday, October 28, volunteers will work in the Yonkers/Hastings/Dobbs Ferry/Ardsley area from Farragut Avenue to Lawrence Street. Two previous Free-A-Tree days at this site have resulted in an appreciable difference in the amount of invasive vines shrouding trees and shrubbery along this stretch of the Parkway. On Saturday, December 2, vine removal will occur from Marble Avenue to Bedford Road in Mount Pleasant. Further dates will be scheduled throughout the year; as sections are cleared, additional stretches of highway will be incorporated into the program, with an eventual goal of revitalizing all the native habitats along the Saw Mill Parkway and River.

Dozens of volunteers are needed! Individuals and environmental, civic and municipal organizations are urged to dedicate an hour or more to help with this important mission. Participants must be at least 16 years of age. Community service credits will be granted for high school students.

To register as a volunteer, send your name and phone number to free-a-tree@hotmail.com. or call the Saw Mill River Coalition at 914-375-2151.

The Saw Mill River Coalition, a program of Groundwork Yonkers, is an alliance of municipalities, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and others dedicated to revitalizing and protecting the Saw Mill River. With its Saw Mill River RATz (Restoration Action Team) volunteer program, it is restoring wildlife habitat and biodiversity along the Saw Mill River. For more information, call 914-375-2151 or email annmarie@groundworkyonkers.org.

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