MAHOPAC, N.Y. -  More than 100 students from Mahopac Middle School and about a dozen more from Mahopac Girl Scouts came out to Airport Park on Saturday, April 27, to plant trees as part of a community planting project.

The park is currently in the midst of a $2.2 million renovation that will include the construction of five new fields, expanded parking, a playground, a concession stand, and remodeled hiking paths throughout the adjoining woods. The construction project necessitated the culling of hundreds of trees and last weekend’s community planting will help to negate the loss.

“We were looking for another opportunity for our students to do community service,” said middle school principal Tom Cozzocrea. “I sat down with (Rec Director) Jim Gilchrist and we talked, and he told us about Airport Park and some of the construction going on here. He told us about an opportunity for our students to get out here—sort like an Arbor Day or Earth Day celebration, and it gives the students a chance to give back to the community in a positive way. It’s something they can see grow as they’re growing up.”

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Last year, the students came together to clean up the grounds of the Town Hall by removing trash and doing some light landscaping and tree-planting.

“We did the Town Hall last year and we thought that this year the park would be the perfect place to plant some trees,” Gilchrist said. “[Carmel hamlet resident] Bob Schanil brought in all these roses of Sharon. [Rec Advisory Committee Chair] Dave Furfaro is doing pine trees and spruces along the left side of the park. We have a great group of teachers here and the Girl Scouts are helping out, too.”

Gilchrist said the group was planting about 700 trees altogether.

“These are small seedlings we are putting in now. But the plan is to bring in more mature trees for the backside of the park,” he said. “We will do that after the fields get established.”

Cozzocrea said some students get community service hours they need to accumulate to go on a trip to Washington D.C., others are doing it for National Junior Honor Society requirements.

“Others have already fulfilled their hours [by working at Town Hall] but it was such a positive thing that they came back this year,” the principal said. “They are still wanting to do a few more hours.”