Forest Park gets a green boost with tree planting event hosted by White Cap at Oak Ridge

forest park
Photo by Anthony Medina

Over 50 volunteers from four partnering organizations worked diligently on Thursday, May 9, to plant 35 new trees and uproot invasive greenery in the historic Oak Ridge section of Forest Park in Woodhaven.

White Cap, a nationally recognized construction supply company, hosted the tree planting event in partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation, an organization dedicated to planting trees globally.

The company also collaborated with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and The Forest Park Trust, which helped provide essential tools and guidance to volunteers.

Over 50 volunteers at a tree planting event hosted by White Cap, a national construction supply company, within Oak Ridge at Forest Park, on Thursday, May 9. Photo by Anthony Medina

White Cap’s leadership at the tree-planting event emphasized continuing the company’s efforts to support local green spaces and find ways to bring people together outdoors.

“I think it’s good to take a step back from the hustle and bustle of the city and to appreciate the green space that is available,” said Ralph DeBerardinis, the northeast regional operations manager at White Cap.

DeBerardinis told QNS he showed up early to the event to get a feel for the park as a first-time visitor and witnessed firsthand bustling commuter traffic.

This tree planting, the fourth event White Cap has hosted with the Arbor Day Foundation, was another way for leadership to connect with the communities it serves.

An assortment of trees, including the sassafras, which is known to support butterfly growth, are placed in the back of a NYC parks truck and where they wait to be planted. Photo by Anthony Medina

Raph McNevin, White Cap’s district manager for New York and New Jersey, says having two company sites only furthers the importance of supporting local Queens areas.

“It’s a superb opportunity for us to get out and give back a little bit,” said McNevin, adding that the team also benefits from spending time together outside of work.

Members from the public stopping by to lend a helping hand also included members of the Pi Phi Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, serving Northeast Queens. Tabia Robinson, Danielle Houston, and Jennifer Clarke volunteered their time to help the Woodhaven greenspace.

White Cap volunteers learn from NYC Parks experts. Photo by Anthony Medina

Although Forest Park is home to over 165 acres of trees, the additional oaks planted in the area play a much larger role in its life. Amy Lester, a venture project coordinator on the community trees team at Arbor Day Foundation, spoke with QNS about the benefits of planting new trees, especially in urban areas like Queens.

“For sure they help with the urban heat island effect,” Lester said. “That happens when they don’t have shaded spaces and natural areas to help absorb the heat and cool the ground underneath it.”

Another dilemma newly planted trees help to solve is pollution, Lester adds.

“In a space like this, these trees are going to be the front lines for the pollution mitigation that comes from the traffic that happens,” Lester explained.

NYC Parks staffers, and those with the Forest Park Trust, also stressed the importance of forest restoration efforts at Forest Park. Ripping out invasive species of Wineberry shrub and Bittersweet by hand, park employees cleared as much space for the new trees as possible.

Christina from NYC Parks gives a quick lesson on how to identify poison ivy to White Cap volunteers. Photo by Anthony Medina

An ongoing effort from park workers to maintain the space involves keeping track of the plant life cycle, explained James Kaechele of NYC Parks. The trees located at Oak Ridge date back to as late as 1919, paving the way for a new generation of trees to support the park as a whole.

“When one (tree) dies, that leaves a huge gap and if you don’t have forest restoration happening, forest regeneration happening behind, you lose canopy cover very quickly. So you always want some baby trees waiting in the wings for when these sort of Grandfather trees pass,” Kaechele said.

As additional city agencies face budget cuts, with NYC Parks expected to take a $55 million hit next year, the work of volunteers and partnering organizations makes forest restoration possible in the city.

White Cap Volunteers work together to plant 35 trees in Forest Park, Queens. Photo courtesy White Cap