Wick Park gets redecorated naturally

Volunteers restore tree canopy, improve greenspace

Jack Daugherty, at right in ball cap, of the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp., outlines to volunteers instructions for planting trees during a North Side tree-planting event Tuesday in and near Wick Park in Youngstown. Correspondent photo / Sean Barron

YOUNGSTOWN — Chris Keaton celebrated turning 20 first by being in the right place at the right time, then deriving far more pleasure from giving than receiving.

“It’s my 20th birthday and I decided to help,” Keaton, of Youngstown, said. “It worked out perfectly. I feel pretty good to help with this.”

Keaton and several friends were walking on Park Avenue on the North Side when curiosity got the better of him. Specifically, he inquired about what a group of 25 or so people was doing in Wick Park before he became part of Tuesday’s North Side tree-planting event, set up to beautify the storied park and surrounding neighborhoods.

Keaton, who has worked at various restaurants and volunteers at the St. Vincent de Paul soup kitchen, extended his volunteer efforts by helping to plant a few berry trees at Park Avenue and Elm Street, the park’s southeast entrance.

Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. partnered with Youngstown CityScape, Youngstown Tree Corp., the city’s parks and recreation department and other entities to plant mostly native trees in the park, as well as at Beatitude House and Fairgreen Neighborhood Garden. A group from Youngstown State University also assisted.

Rusty Oak Nursery in Lake County brought 43 oak, maple, crabapple and other native trees, along with some ornamental ones. Of those, 23 were to be installed in the park, including 13 along Fifth Avenue, Jack Daugherty, YNDC’s neighborhood stabilization director, noted.

The 13 will greatly “restore the tree canopy” on that block of the corridor, replace those trees that had to be removed and improve the overall greenspace, Daugherty explained.

In addition, installing large trees is beneficial because they tend to have better survival rates and leave a positive impact on many neighborhoods, he continued.

Similarly, YNDC planted 95 trees last week in parts of the South Side, especially near vacant lots on Glenwood Avenue that the agency maintains, Daugherty said. He noted that plans are underway to plant 112 more trees this fall, in conjunction with a number of neighborhood groups and community organizations.

“It’s going to look great. I can’t wait,” Daugherty said about Wick Park and surrounding areas.

Before the planting began, he provided detailed instructions to volunteers about carefully handling and properly installing the trees. Then several of the 25 or 30 of them broke into teams and began to work at Park Avenue and Elm Street as well as Fifth Avenue and Broadway to plant the trees in 1-foot deep predug holes and add wood chips.

“I’m super excited to be out here beautifying our community,” Alyson Scheibe, an educator with Mill Creek MetroParks, said.

Scheibe, who moved to the Mahoning Valley in October from the Wooster area, called such restoration efforts “uplifting and encouraging.”

She and others worked together to plant a few 15-foot berry trees next to the Elm Street entrance.

Also happy to get his hands a bit dirty Tuesday was Phil Kidd, director of special projects for the Northwest Neighborhoods Community Development Corp. in Cleveland. Before moving to that city in 2019, Kidd had served four years as CityScape’s associate director and has had his hands in numerous infrastructure and beautification projects as well as many other efforts to improve Youngstown’s quality of life. He remains a YNDC board member.

Calling Wick Park “an urban canopy,” Kidd didn’t hesitate to express his gratitude in being back at his old stomping ground to spruce it up a bit.

“It’s extremely satisfying. It feels in many ways like I’m passing the baton,” he said, adding, “To me, this is home.”


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