- The Washington Times - Monday, April 18, 2005

About 100 youths, some from as far away as Oregon and New Hampshire, started Earth Week in the District yesterday by planting 125 trees on the edge of Fort Stanton Park, east of the Anacostia River.

Asked why he was in the park yesterday, 3-year-old Benjamin Briechle-Greenberg, wielding a miniature green and brown shovel, replied, “To plant all the trees” and “water them.”

Nearby was his mother, Kendra Briechle, a volunteer working with Casey Trees Endowment, and his father, Marvin Greenberg, a computer technician. His brother, Harrison, was quietly celebrating his 3-month-old birthday. The family lives in Arlington.

The hillside park project is across the 1900 block of Fort Place SE from the Smithsonian Institution’s Anacostia Museum and Center for African-American History.

Casey Trees Endowment sponsored the planting as well as several other conservation programs this week, including a celebration Friday of the 35th anniversary of Earth Day.

“It’s fun. I actually work outdoors,” said Rachelle Vanderzanden, 21.

The Oregonian is one of 16 members of AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps.

Also with AmeriCorps was Maggie Sexton, 19, and her mother, Mary Sexton, of Helena, Mont.

Mrs. Sexton is director of Montana Natural Resources for recently elected Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

Other participating organizations were Fort Stanton Community Volunteers, the National Park Service, Wholeness for Humanity, Religious Partnership for the Anacostia and Girl Scouts from the nearby Rehobeth Baptist Church, 621 Alabama Ave. SE.

Lavell Merritt, a National Park Service ranger, explained that Fort Stanton was one of a circle of forts created by President Lincoln to protect Washington from attacks such as the ones during the War of 1812.

He pointed out the hilltop where soldiers chopped down trees so that lookouts could see approaching troops.

“This is a focus on urban conservation,” said Casey Executive Director Jim Lyons, 49, a Capitol Hill resident. He said planting trees uplifts spirits and diminishes crime.

Casey Trees Endowment was created in 2001 after philanthropist Betty Brown Casey learned the District had lost 40 percent of its trees to disease and neglect between 1973 and 1997.

Tree planting this year is concentrated in Wards 7 and 8, east of the Anacostia.

Sixteen students of Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire were helping dig holes to plant dogwoods, tulip fringe, witch hazel and Eastern red cedar trees.

The students are congressional interns. Supervisor Rick Schubart, 59, of Exeter, N.H., said the project was fun for the group.

Matthew Jackson said his upcoming bar mitzvah was the reason he was at Fort Stanton yesterday.

The 12-year-old D.C. resident, of Spring Valley in Northwest, said the bar mitzvah is a time for giving, and planting trees was a way for him to give something back.

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