Hydration Helpers

August 10 2023
Bee house installed on a linden tree

High above the scorching hot pavement, the boughs of New York City’s street trees stretch into a verdant green canopy. These living, breathing members of our community often go unnoticed, but they’re an incredibly valuable resource and an essential part of the city’s ecosystem. Trees help to clean and cool our air, and their shade helps to mitigate the heat vulnerability index of an area. Just being around trees helps to improve our mental health, plus, they’re beautiful! 

Earlier this year, the urban canopy around Washington Square Park got greener when NYC Parks teams planted 13 new trees around the perimeter. But this city is no easier on young trees than on any other transplant, and they may face drought, heat waves, and poor soil conditions. Regular watering, particularly in the early years, is one of the most effective ways to help them grow into a lush and healthy urban canopy. But with all the other work required to keep things running smoothly, the Park staff doesn’t have the capacity for a weekly water, so Conservancy volunteers stepped in to help! This year’s inaugural group of Washington Sq Waterers is 3 members strong and has clocked over 40 hours this season (that’s over 800 gallons of water for our thirsty trees). So far the results have been wonderful, with most of the trees thriving even through the summer heat.

Volunteer Waterer, Ken, at the start of a shift

After specialized training from Washington Square Park staff (and being outfitted in some snazzy WSPC-gear), our Waterers get to work. They set their own schedule and navigate independently throughout the Park. Physically getting enough water to each tree is the biggest hurdle–there isn’t a handy hose right next to each pit. To avoid the backbreaking work of carrying twenty gallons of water by hand, WSPC purchased a rolling water barrel for them to use, you may have seen it trundling around! Waterers work their shifts in the earlier hours of the day so the trees have a chance to drink before heat can evaporate the moisture. To ensure trees don’t get overwatered, volunteers follow a rotating weekly schedule, with backup captains to get any trees that were missed due to gaps in scheduling. 

The Waterers will keep at it through the growing season before breaking for winter (wouldn’t want to freeze the roots!), but they’ll be back at it again come spring. If you’re interested in joining the team, visit our volunteer page to find out more.