Arborists groom Monument Mountain Regional High School campus

GREAT BARRINGTON -- Monument Mountain Regional High School campus was abuzz on Wednesday with the sounds of chainsaws, wood chippers and bucket trucks.

More than a dozen area arborists chopped down, pruned and planted trees as part of an annual day of service, sponsored by Berkshire Botanical Garden.

"Many big public institutions like this can't afford extensive tree work," said Ron Yaple, principal certified arborist of Race Mountain Tree Services Inc. in Sheffield.

Yaple, and fellow arborists Tom Ingersoll and Tom Whalen, are part of a committee that organizes the annual service day. Now in its seventh year, the Arborists Day effort has served South County sites like Berkshire Botanical Garden, the Bidwell House and Museum, The Mount and Pine Woods Affordable Housing.

"Though we're competing businesses, it's nice to put our heads together on a project for a deeper cause. The camaraderie among the tree guys and gals is great," Yaple said.

A combined crew of about 25 tree workers spent the day sprucing up the campus, and also talking with students, teachers and other curious visitors.

Melissa LeVangie gave two talks at the school, including a morning Arts and Ideas Forum and a closing talk on forests' battle with the Asian longhorn beetle invasion.

LeVangie works as a tree climber for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is also the owner of Trees New England LLC, a consulting arborist firm specializing in the safety, planning and management of trees.

She is also part of the 5 percent of women who work in the field of arboriculture.

LeVangie spoke to students about climbing safety and demonstrated some of the equipment she uses. She also spoke about the range of careers in the field as well and fun activities, like tree climbing competitions.

"If anything, I hope that students learn today that there's another professional path they can consider," she said, noting that jobs in the field range from laborers to doctorate degree-holding soil specialists.

"There are some kids here that really want to do this, and we're really lucky to have the professionals here who are interested in sharing their time," said Monument Principal Marianne Young.

Two such interested students are senior Chris Peretti and junior Jamie Waterman. The two young men are currently working to raise funds to propagate, purchase and plant native trees on the school grounds through a project they're currently calling the "Monument Arboretum."

"I think it's really important to educate students about trees and their role in the environment and to help students get back in touch with nature and vocations," Waterman said.

To learn more about the arboretum project or to make a donation, contact Principal Marianne Young at (413) 528-3346 or marianne.young


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