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Volunteers gather to help heal Riverfront Park

Date: 11/7/2013

By G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD – One hundred people planted trees, bulbs and scrubs at Riverfront Park on Oct. 30 as part of an effort to help to heal the park after the damage caused by the June 1, 2011 tornado.

Most of the volunteers were employees of TD Bank who were participating in an effort to help communities in the service area, David Bloniarz explained.

Bloniarz is the head of the nonprofit group Regreen Springfield, which as been working to restore trees to the parts of the city hit by the tornado.

He explained the TD Bank has also funded through grants to urban orchard, one at Johnny Appleseed Park in the Maple High Six Corners neighborhood and the other behind John F. Kennedy Middle School in Indian Orchard.

The TD Bank volunteers came to Springfield, Bloniarz said, as one of the 10 communities the bank selected through its TD Tree Days campaign. The group, along with the Regreen Springfield volunteers, planted 60 shade trees, 30 shrubs and 750 flowering bulbs, he added.

Many of the volunteers were not just from Western Massachusetts, but Waltham and Worcester as well, Bloniarz noted.

The reason for planting the new trees is to provide more shade in the park for the people who use it, attract wildlife and reduce rainwater run-off, Bloniarz said.

He said that many downtown workers come to the park for their lunch and the park “is a jewel in the city that’s somewhat under-appreciated.”

Bloniarz explained that tree-planting has been going on in the neighborhoods hit by the tornado as well as the installation of six weather stations and 42 micro station to measure the changes in temperature and humidity in those parts of the city that have far fewer trees.

So far there has been a 3-degree increase in temperature without the trees providing shade, he said. With the maturing of the trees, the temperature is expected to decrease.

One of the volunteers, TD Bank Regional Vice President Frank Crinella is a native of Springfield and said the bank will “continue to place an active role” in the city’s growth and recovery.

Looking at the dozens of volunteers raking and planting, he added, “I couldn’t be prouder.”