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Righting a wrong – with saplings and shovels

On Saturday, November 28, Juniper Valley Park was “made whole again.”

Five months after a group of trees in the Middle Village green space fell victim to vandalism and just two months removed from a subsequent wave of “arborcide” in which a dozen expensive ornamentals were destroyed, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation showed up with shovels and saplings.

“It’s a beautiful park – one of the nicest in the city of New York,” Juniper Valley Park Civic Association president Robert Holden said a few days after the replanting. “This was just sort of like an open wound and now we feel it’s been corrected.”

Holden said around a dozen people, including Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski, braved the wind and cold on Saturday morning to ceremonially restore the park. They welcomed nine Snow Goose Cherry trees, two Kwanzan Cherries and three Bosnian Pines, as well as 20 elms donated in the wake of the vandalism by Dart’s Tree Farms of Long Island.

The elms will eventually take root in another part of Queens and in the Bronx, since they are susceptible to the Asian long-horned beetle, which has found a home in Juniper Valley.

Aside from restoring beauty to the park, Holden said the replanting effort was important to “send the message that we’re not giving in to these mindless acts and vandalism.”

In fact, on November 14, the Parks Department replanted a “living memorial” to 9/11 in South Ozone Park’s Lefferts Playground, which was similarly vandalized late this past summer.

Holden, who commended the Parks Department for its swift response to the arborcide, said, “The memory still lingers though.”

“It’s a bitter kind of feeling,” he went on, “that the people that would do this are still out there.”

The recently-increased $3,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone behind the damage still stands, however. And Holden is holding onto a seedling of hope.

“We want to catch these people,” he said.

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