Project EverGreen mobilizes partners and volunteers to restore Liberty Island’s 9/11 Memorial Grove that was devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

The Statue of Liberty was dedicated in October 1886 and served to welcome immigrants seeking freedom in the United States. In 2012, 126 years later, almost to the day, Hurricane Sandy left Liberty Island under five feet of salt water destroying the trees planted there to honor the victims of 9/11.

The 9/11 Memorial Grove is just to the right of the base of the Statue of Liberty.

The 9/11 Memorial Grove is just to the right of the base of the Statue of Liberty.

“This is the Statue of Liberty, one of the most recognized landmarks in the world,” says Brian Tauscher, owner of Artisan Garden Landscapes. “To be able to say that you’re involved in helping to restore part of Liberty Island that was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy — as an American, as a citizen — it is an honor to be here and be part of this.”

Project EverGreen, a national non-profit that preserves and enhances green spaces in our communities where we live, work and play, spearheaded a dedicated group of volunteers for this historic project. Collectively, the group installed a dozen 14-ft tall London plane trees, spread 2,000 pounds of mulch, aerated the ground, and spread 16,000 pounds of enhanced gypsum to treat the damaged soil on both Ellis Island and the 9/11 Memorial Grove that rests in the shadow of Lady Liberty. The total revitalization effort is valued at an estimated $50,000.

The sacred site – which offers a view of the Lower Manhattan skyline, including the spot where the World Trade Center once stood – provides visitors a place to rest and reflect on the 2001 tragedy. Over 160,000 square feet, nearly 4 acres of turfgrass were aerated and treated with gypsum on both Liberty and Ellis Islands. Gypsum works to reduce the salt content in the soil, creating a healthier, sustainable environment for grass, plants and trees. In addition, more than 17 gallons of soil surfactant were donated to help remediate the extremely high saline soil levels on both islands.

Healthy green spaces not only connect people to their communities and surroundings, they are proven to have a mental healing effect, like those dealing with a loss of a loved one from the 9/11 tragedy. “Just 30 minutes in an urban nature environment, like the 9/11 Memorial Grove, can have positive effects on stress relief,” says Cindy Code, executive director of Project EverGreen.

That group that worked on Liberty Island included Tauscher, members of Project EverGreen’s board and advisory council and a host of green industry companies. The project required nearly a year of planning, preparation and logistics and culminated June 10 with the planting of those trees at the site dedicated by the Ladies Auxiliary of Foreign Wars shortly after 9/11.

Brian Tauscher of Artisan Gardens Landscaping and his crew put one of 12 London plane trees into a hole dug by volunteers for Project EverGreen's 9/11 Memorial Grove revitalization project.

Brian Tauscher of Artisan Gardens Landscaping and his crew put one of 12 London plane trees into a hole dug by volunteers for Project EverGreen’s 9/11 Memorial Grove revitalization project.

“I really wanted to get involved when I heard Project EverGreen was doing work on Liberty Island,” said Marco Goncalves, of Clean Cut Lawn, Westchester. “It wasn’t about recognition; it’s about being able to contribute to our country.”

“It was placed there very early after 9/11, when emotions here were extremely high,” says John Hnedak, deputy superintendent, Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island. “It’s very subtle. If you do know what it is and can turn around and look at where the twin towers used to be, the meaning will definitely deepen for you.”

Currently a plaque adorns the wall next to the memorial grove, explaining the reason the trees were planted. In addition to the trees, Project EverGreen will have a second plaque installed explaining the organization’s role in the grove’s re-dedication.

A number of organizations contributed to the project to ensure its completion on time and with the proper professional outcome. The work started long before June 10. Paul Cowie of Paul Cowie & Associates donated a soil analysis and remediation treatment program to the NPS for Liberty and Ellis islands, both of which were under five feet of salt water following Hurricane Sandy flood surges. Cowie was also instrumental in mobilizing several of the other participating NJ and NY contractor donors and helped coordinate the onsite landscaping installations. SoluCal USA donated the 8 pallets of gypsum; and the 12 London Plane trees were donated and delivered to the site by Plant Detectives Nursery & Garden Center. >Lawn Doctor and Clean Cut Lawns & Landscape spent time on both islands aerating and spreading the gypsum.

“A lot of people come to us and say they want to help,” Hnedak says. “The difference between the random people who want to volunteer (and Project EverGreen) is not only are you organized, there’s a lot of credibility in your group. When you have people like Paul (Cowie) and others, who can supply the kind of expertise that we don’t have on staff anymore.”

Because Project EverGreen stepped up, the work on the 9/11 Memorial Grove was completed without the need for the National Park Service to go through a long and labored consulting and contracting process.

“To be able to hand that over to a group like (Project EverGreen) is a luxurious thing,” Hnedak says. “It’s really nice to just have it happen.”

Apparently, it’s also nice to be a part of the project. “When they asked me to get involved my initial response was, ‘yes,’” says Tauscher. “Just being here is an honor. More people should be doing this, giving back.” Artisan Gardens did a lot of prep work and handled much of the logistics for the day of the plantings. That involved getting the London plane trees, 70 bags of mulch, shovels, rakes and other tools to the island. The mulch and additional tree planting tools were provided by Almstead Tree & Shrub Care.

“The National Park Service has been gracious and helpful. They’ve been very accommodating,” Tauscher says.

Though more than 40 workers spent hours digging, planting and mulching, several took a moment to reflect on the magnitude of what they were doing. “The fact that Project EverGreen spearheaded this and saw that there was a problem and corralled all sorts of people in the industry to get this done, it’s amazing,” Tauscher says. “It’s really humbling to be here and be part of this and to say generations to come will come and see these trees. Maybe one day I’ll come back with my grandkids, and I can say, ‘This grove of trees here. This is what I helped plant.’”

A couple of London plane trees about to be planted in the 9/11 Memorial Grove to replace the dead trees that were damaged following Hurricane Sandy.

A couple of London plane trees about to be planted in the 9/11 Memorial Grove to replace the dead trees that were damaged following Hurricane Sandy.

George Iannaccone, branch manager with John Deere Landscapes on Long Island, drove more than an hour to participate.

“It was a nice chance to leave a legacy,” he says. “How many times do you get a chance to plant trees at the Statue of Liberty? I think it’s a great thing. It’s a great thing what Project EverGreen does. They do a lot of great work across the country. This time it was only 60 miles away, so I had to make the trek to come.”

The unique opportunity to participate on the project was a common theme among many of the volunteers. Andrew Cinque, a Long Island resident who works for Lebanon Turf Products had an additional reason. His son serves as an assistant captain on the Staten Island Ferry.

“I went through Hurricane Sandy,” Cinque says. “The water stopped a block from my house. It’s an honor to be here today.” Cinque says. “It’s a great cause and we want to be a part of it going into the future.”

Lebanon Turf donated Tree Saver, which provides a healthy start to the tree, particularly the roots.

The 9/11 Memorial Grove is actually Project EverGreen’s second project with the National Park Service. Late last year, as part of a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Park Service, the organization worked to restore the German-American Friendship Garden, which serves as an entry way to the Washington Monument in Washington D.C. That project also served as a gateway to work on future renovation work with the National Park Service.

“The Project EverGreen board, advisory council and contractor volunteers worked side-by-side to return the grove area to its pre-Hurricane Sandy beauty,” Code says. “While much of the work was done in advance – including soil analysis, removal of dead trees, aeration and gypsum application – the icing on the cake was the installation of a dozen beautiful 14-foot London Plane trees. The pride and enthusiasm was evident on the faces of all who joined in.”

Other partners in the project included: Bartlett Tree Experts, Husqvarna, Levitt’s LLC, Lidochem, Inc., New Jersey Nursery & Landscape Association, PLANET (Professional Landcare Network), and Weed Man. Jersey Mike’s Subs of Holmdel and Middletown provided sandwiches and bottled water for the volunteers.

About Project EverGreen:
Headquartered in Cleveland, OH, Project EverGreen is a national non-profit 501c3 organization committed to preserving and enhancing green spaces in our communities where we live, work and play. Project EverGreen’s revitalization projects result in beneficial green spaces that provide flourishing settings for kids and adults alike to relax, connect with residents and enjoy the outdoors.
To learn more about Project EverGreen and our efforts to restore and repair parks, schools and public green spaces in your city, or to join us in volunteering your time, service or other resources, visit www.projectevergreen.org or www.facebook.com/ProjectEverGreen