Trio of students replaces six trees at RFA

TREES PLANTED AT RFA ¿ From left, custodian Pat Felker and students Alex Martin, Christian Johnson and Gavin Bailey are shown with one of six newly planted trees outside Rome Free Academy. Last year, six maple trees at RFA were cut down in an act of vandalism. Martin and Johnson are from RFA, while Bailey is from the Remsen district.

WELL GROUNDED — Alex Martin of the Rome Free Academy Class of 2012 plants a flowering crab tree outside the school. Martin helped organize and raise money for a project to plant six trees at RFA.

Three students volunteered to plant six trees at Rome Free Academy Tuesday, aiming to make up for the loss of six maple trees that were cut down at the Griffiss park high school by unidentified vandals in June 2011.

Among the students were Alex Martin of the RFA class of 2012, who helped organize the project including raising money to buy the trees, RFA senior Christian Johnson, and Gavin Bailey of the Remsen class of 2012. With direction from head custodian Pat Felker, they planted four red maples and two flowering crab trees on the RFA grounds, according to a Rome school district announcement.

"A lot of students felt really bad about the trees that were chopped down last year and I wanted to do something about it," said Martin in the announcement. He contacted RFA Principal Mark Benson last fall about completing a community service project, with a goal of earning an Eagle Scout advancement rank in Boy Scouting.

After getting approval, Martin sought to raise money for the trees, and said "I held bottle and can drives and solicited school clubs." The efforts generated $1,182, the district said.

"Students and staff will once again see trees lining the walkway at RFA, thanks to the kindness of Martin and his friends," the district said.

Six maple trees that previously had lined the walkway to a main entrance were cut down on June 13, 2011; the trees were about five years old and estimated at about 15 feet high. No one was charged in the vandalism incident, although the district reviewed surveillance camera footage of the site and police issued a photo of a suspect vehicle from the footage.