Digging in: Mary Hennelly shovels some earth around an ironwood tree she raised funds to plant near Ames School in Riverside.Photo courtesy Mildred Collins

As Mary Hennelly’s birthday approached last year, she had a novel request of guests attending her birthday party. The Ames School fourth-grader didn’t want anything for herself. What she wanted were donations to fund the planting of a tree in her hometown of Riverside.

On April 26 — Arbor Day — Mary saw that wish granted. At a ceremony at the triangle in front of Ames School, Mary shoveled spadesful of earth to help plant an ironwood tree (also known as an American hophornbeam) there.

“She’s really an extraordinary kid,” said Riverside Forester Michael Collins, whom Mary’s mom, Lisa, contacted last fall about her daughter’s request. “It’s really heartwarming for a forester like myself.”

According to Collins, Mary donated her birthday gift of $175 to pay for the purchase of the tree. Collins settled on the triangle near Ames for three reasons. First, he said, the Ames triangle was the first area in the village where the emerald ash borer was positively identified. Several trees on that triangle and nearby were removed after that discovery in late 2011.

Second, the ironwood is an understory tree, and there were no understory trees in that triangle. Third, since Mary attended Ames School, it seemed like an appropriate location.

Riverside celebrated Arbor Day on April 27 at Patriots Park. In addition to hosting a landscape workday at the park, the village, along with the Frederick Law Olmsted Society and students participating in the RBHS Day of Service, took part in the planting of a linden tree, which was donated by Susan Casey, the chairwoman of the Riverside Parks and Recreation Commission.

The tree, when fully grown, will help shade the park, which can take a beating during hot, dry spells during the summer.

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