Deb Lowney demonstrates to a group of Paul Banks Elementary students how much of a tree’s roots need to be buried in the ground when they are transplanted Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017 at Karen Hornaday Park in Homer, Alaska. The students volunteered to transplant the pine trees onto new trail sections at the park to promote plan diversity. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Paul Banks students help transplant trees

Some young Paul Banks Elementary students got a bit dirty in the name of public service last week when they helped spruce up some recently-constructed trails at Karen Hornaday Park.

Wendy Todd’s first grade class traipsed out into the trees to transplant some spruce onto the sides of the new trails the morning of Sept. 7. They carefully uprooted the small trees from along Spruceview Avenue, just a few streets down from the park, and replanted them at Karen Hornaday with the help of parent volunteers and Deb Lowney, one of the residents who constructed the trails with the help of the Homer Accelerated Road and Trails program.

Todd, who is friends with Lowney, said the pair were walking the new trail sections recently when she asked how her kids could get involved and helped.

“I think it is important for them to realize that there’s more to life than just what’s inside the school,” Todd said. “That helping out and being a part of the community is really important.”

Lowney suggested the tree transplants. While spruce are naturally occurring around the park, it hasn’t been that way for a while and the areas surrounding the trails are filled with alders.

“It was a disturbed area when they came in and kind of put the utilities through here, so our goal now is just to bring a little bit more of the natural environment back into it,” she said. “The spruce trees will be really good once they get established in terms of the wildlife and birds and just offering that protection.”

The students learned how to dig up the small spruce trees without destroying their roots, and placed them in buckets and boxes to be taken up to the park. There, they dug holes and planted the trees in spots that had been pre-cleared for them. Lowney reminded the group to avoid stinging nettles and showed them how to properly bury a tree’s entire root system, thus giving it the best chance at growing up.

Todd said that while her class covers plants more in the spring, they did go over the different parts of a plant in class around the time of this trip.

For 6-year-old Sawyer Johnson, pulling the trees out of the ground was the more entertaining part of the project. He already had a good grasp on why they spent their morning transplanting.

“It means that you take trees from another spot and transplant them to another spot on another trail,” Johnson said, explaining that he had to cover the whole root system of the tree he was packing into the dirt so that it wouldn’t die.

Taking a break from leading her little helpers through the trees and grass, Lowney said the trails project was nearing completion.

“This is incredible. I mean, this is what it’s all about, is community and community effort,” she said of the students. “And, you know, kids, especially this young, starting just the thought process of community service, and looking at trails or green spaces as spaces that we need to take care of … as a group, as a community.”

There will be a grand opening for the new trail sections at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 24, at Karen Hornaday Park.

Reach Megan Pacer at

Deb Lowney leads a group of Paul Banks Elementary students along a recently-completed train at Karen Hornaday Park on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017 in Homer, Alaska. The kids volunteered to transplant pine trees from a nearby street to the trails to help diversify the plant life in the park. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

A freshly-transplanted tree sits on the side of a trail Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017 at Karen Hornaday Park in Homer, Alaska. Students from Paul Banks Elementary volunteer to move them from Spruceview Avenue to help foster plant diversity on the recently-completed trails. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Sawyer Johnson digs up a tree to be transplanted Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017 on Spruceview Avenue in Homer, Alaska. He and the rest of his Paul Banks Elementary class moved dozens of pine trees to the newly-completed trails at Karen Hornaday Park to help bring plant diversity to the area. (Photo courtesy Paul Banks Elementary)

Deb Lowney helps Paul Banks Elementary student Colt Krueger dig up a tree Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017 on Spruceview Avenue in Homer, Alaska. Krueger and his classmates transplanted trees from that street to new trails in Karen Hornaday Park to encourage plant diversity there. (Photo courtesy Paul Banks Elementary)

Sawyer Johnson, a student at Paul Banks Elementary, plants a tree in the dirt along a recently-completed trail Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017 at Karen Hornaday Park in Homer, Alaska. Johnson and his classmates volunteered to transplant frees from a nearby street to the trail to help improve diversity among plants at the park. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

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