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Sixth-grader begins project to plant 1,000 trees in Largo (w/video)

LARGO — It started with a letter to the mayor.

Riley Browne, 11, learned last school year about Wangari Muta Maathai, a Nobel Prize-winning environmental activist who helped plant millions of trees in Kenya.

"She inspired me," Riley said. "I just thought it was a cool thing for her to do."

Riley's goal: plant 1,000 trees in Largo.

"With your help," she wrote to Mayor Pat Gerard, "I'd like to gather up volunteers throughout Largo to help get this accomplished."

Riley got a start on Friday when she and a dozen others, including city and school officials, planted 10 crape myrtle trees with white and lavender blooms at her former school, Mildred Helms Elementary.

"She's just getting started," said parks superintendent Greg Brown, who called the project "wonderful."

Gerard helped her plant the first tree.

Throughout the next several months, Riley's goal is to get the other trees planted at homes throughout Largo.

Brown's department has planted trees throughout and along public properties, streets and parks in the city. In all, Largo is home to roughly 15,000 of them.

In 2010, the Arbor Day Foundation named Largo a Sterling Tree City USA, making it the first city in Tampa Bay to receive that distinction.

But Brown said he'd like to see more trees in people's yards. That's where Riley's project comes in, he said.

"This is the best way for us to get healthy trees in a person's yard," he said. "We lost a lot of canopy in the county with all the development. We're just trying to beautify the city."

The trees, which will be paid for by the city, will be distributed in two or three giveaways, with the first one in January. Residents interested in receiving trees will be able to register on Largo's website (largo.com), Gerard said.

Ten kinds of trees will be available.

Contact Laura C. Morel at lmorel@tampabay.com or (727)445-4157.

Mark Browne helps daughter Riley Browne, right, plant a tree as Largo Mayor Pat Gerard, left, looks on Friday at Mildred Helms Elementary. Trees will be distributed in two or three giveaways. Residents who want trees will be able to register at largo.com, Gerard said. 

JIM DAMASKE | Times

Mark Browne helps daughter Riley Browne, right, plant a tree as Largo Mayor Pat Gerard, left, looks on Friday at Mildred Helms Elementary. Trees will be distributed in two or three giveaways. Residents who want trees will be able to register at largo.com, Gerard said. 

Sixth-grader begins project to plant 1,000 trees in Largo (w/video) 07/18/14 [Last modified: Saturday, July 19, 2014 5:16pm]
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