West Penn Power Green Team Joins Community Volunteers to Plant Native Trees and Shrubs in Washington Park

Green Team Pond View

More than 20 enthusiastic volunteers, including a group from West Penn Power’s Green Team, joined arms to plant 320 black gum trees and pollinating shrubs in western Pennsylvania to help control erosion and add to the variety of plant life on the steep slope surrounding Washington Park’s stormwater retention pond. 

According to Pam Kilgore, co-organizer of the April 8 event and an outdoor education expert at the park, the area beyond the pond is known for its rugged terrain. 

“We aim to add diversity to the plant species. The area is currently densely populated with sycamores, which are great for erosion control, but we need more variety,” she said.

Students from Washington High School, Washington and Jefferson College and members of the Washington Rotary Club joined the Green Team, fanning out around the pond with shovels, stakes, saplings and shrubs. 

Footing was slick across the muddy hillside because recent rains had overtopped the pond’s typical pool. With stormwater regularly inundating lower reaches of the slopes, plants that make their home there must thrive on or at least tolerate wet feet.

FirstEnergy supplied the native plants that fit the description: black gum trees, also known as tupelo, prized in the south for providing bees with the essential ingredient for sweet tupelo honey and button bush, bayberry and possumhaw shrubs.

“Stake me!” was a common refrain during the four-hour planting as the volunteers worked as an assembly line to dig holes, plant and stake saplings. Rotary Club members endured the tedious task of fashioning protective tubes from slippery plastic sheets with a propensity to unexpectedly unroll. The tubes prevent deer and rabbits from browsing the baby plants while providing protection from bitter winter winds and cold spring temperatures.

The planting was part of FirstEnergy’s continued commitment to responsible business, which includes supporting the environment and the communities served by its electric companies, including FirstEnergy Pennsylvania, which does business in the western and central part of the state as West Penn Power. Since starting this initiative, FirstEnergy has planted more than 67,000 trees across its service area, including many in underserved communities.

“We try to help out by replacing the trees we need to cut down,” said Benjamin Moore, a forestry specialist whose job is to prevent trees from encroaching on power line rights-of-way to help prevent power outages for West Penn Power customers. He is also a committed member of the Green Team comprised of employee volunteers dedicated to supporting environmental initiatives across FirstEnergy’s footprint. 

“It’s all about planting the right tree in the right place,” he said.

In other parts of the state this spring, the Green Team will plant trees in Hempfield Park in Westmoreland County and at the Bear Run Nature Reserve containing Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic Fallingwater in Fayette County.

For more information about FirstEnergy’s environmental and corporate responsibility efforts to build a brighter and more sustainable future, visit www.fecorporateresponsibility.com.



Last Modified: April 17, 2024