UPDATE: Local planting 100 elms across Rockport

Michael Cronin, Gloucester Daily Times, Mass.
·2 min read

Apr. 13—ROCKPORT — Wishing for more trees around town? Project Elm has you covered.

The community group formed by Rockport resident Nathan Ives recently received a $6,000 grant from Awesome Rockport to purchase 100 small elm "whips" to give away for free.

According to the Project Elm's grant application, the project seeks to take "a proactive step to help reverse global climate change."

Ives, while on his way to plant another batch of trees Monday, told Times over the phone that he also hopes the project will bring back the Rockport he knew as a youth.

"I grew up on Norwood Avenue and it was like cathedral of elms there," he said. "I witnessed the tragic loss when elms disease took it all away."

Toward the end of the 1950s, a pandemic of Dutch elm disease killed off many of the elms across the nation. Project Elm's trees are bred to have a higher resistance to the disease.

Typically, Awesome Rockport gives away $1,000 grants for local projects. However, according to Ives, Awesome Rockport founder Sal Zerilli liked the project so much that he decided to throw in an extra $5,000.

"He was such a tremendous help," Ives explained. "When I just started out, I had a hard time getting rid of the first 20. Luckily, he had a whole network of people and eventually word spread. Now I have a wait list that I'm filling out now."

When fully grown, the elms may reach heights of up to 80 or 90 feet. Project Elm's only requirement was that its 6- to 7-foot tall whips be planted on a street-facing side of one's property.

Lydia Owen, a resident of Quarry Ridge Lane, was waiting for her elm to be planted Monday afternoon. She said she first heard about Project Elm on the Good Morning Gloucester podcast.

"They have a whole spot picked out, and they come by and plant it for you too," she continued. "I'm really interested in trees. My nephew is a licensed arborist, so we share that interest."

Ives said the100 saplings were all spoken for on Tuesday afternoon.

Michael Cronin may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or mcronin@gloucestertimes.com.