Volunteers plant 350 trees at Belwin's athletic fields


AFTON, Minn. — On Aug. 22, more than 60 volunteers planted 350 trees at Belwin Conservancy's Lucy Winton Bell Athletic Fields. The trees were purchased using a grant from the Super Bowl LII Urban Forestry Program, whose aim is to reduce the environmental impact of Super Bowl events and leave a positive, "green" legacy in host communities. The trees will serve as a windbreak and sound barrier from nearby Interstate 94, as well as provide habitat for birds and other species.

Belwin Conservancy is one of 12 Minnesota organizations to receive a grant from the Super Bowl LII Urban Forestry Program to fulfill a community need. The NFL, Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee, Verizon, Tree Trust and Andersen Corporation teamed up to donate funds to make the program possible. The Minnesota Vikings are also a partner and supporter of the projects. Tree Trust played a key role in identifying urban forestry projects for this Super Bowl community initiative.

Three hundred red cedar saplings and 50 4-foot bur oak trees were planted by members of the St. Croix Valley Athletic Association, which hosts the area's only youth football program, the St. Croix Soccer Club, members of Belwin Conservancy and other attendees.

"The trees were chosen for their hardiness and also because they're meant to be here," said Justin Sykora, Belwin Conservancy land manager. "The red cedar trees are sun, deer and wind tolerant, and the bur oak provide elevation and habitat for birds."

At the conclusion of the event, lunch for the volunteers was provided by Colleen Danford and her son, Connor. Colleen is the former manager of the LWBAF.

"We are thankful for the grant from the NFL and its partners, which will help us enhance the player and visitor experience at our Lucy Winton Bell Athletic Fields," Belwin Conservancy Development Manager Marta McCormack said. "More than one million people have visited these fields since their inception and the trees planted today will be around for years to come, making this an even more enjoyable place to play at and visit."

Minnesota will host Super Bowl LII on Feb. 4, 2018, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.