For the past 12 years, Bill Simolike has been planting trees in the field behind his Franklin Mills Circle home. He picked up trees regularly each fall and spring when TreePhilly would host giveaways. Gradually, his neighbors joined him.
“Before I knew it I had five, six, 10 of them involved and we’ve got a whole orchard back there now,” he said. “There’s probably over 100 trees now.”
Simolike’s efforts to beautify the city have not gone unnoticed. He was among six local tree-planting advocates honored at the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation’s Arbor Day celebration, this year hosted at Overington Park in Frankford.
The celebration, hosted by Parks and Rec, Fairmount Park Conservancy and TD Bank, took place on Tuesday, April 30, having been pushed back from Arbor Day due to rain. City officials and volunteers gathered to recognize the green advocates, give away trees and plant five new trees in the park. Simolike, along with six other individuals from around the city, were inducted into the “Forest of Fame” for their efforts.
Philadelphia also received its 43rd Tree City USA Award from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Philadelphia is one of few municipalities in the country to receive the recognition every year since the program started.
Diane Kunze, president of the Friends of Overington Park, addressed the crowd. FOOP was formed in 2003, and added trashcans, benches and eventually flower beds to help beautify the park.
“We are a group of planters, us FOOPers, and Overington Park has given us the opportunity for our green thumbs to grow,” she said.
Officials from Jason Dawkins’ and Joe Hohenstein’s offices also spoke briefly to thank the park and those who are responsible for its contribution to the community.
Lori Hayes, director of urban forestry at TreePhilly, highlighted the achievement of receiving the award for 43 consecutive years.
“We take care of our trees, and not just planting them. Emergencies, pruning, removal, anything you might think about with trees,” she said, adding that their work would be impossible without community partners like park groups, friend groups and volunteers.
After the ceremony, volunteers split into groups to help clean the park and plant new trees.
The original plan was to have students from nearby schools come to the park on Arbor Day. They were instead given saplings to take home and plant in the classroom. There also would have been tree climbing and pruning demonstrations at the originally planned ceremony. ••