For citizens residing near Red Smith Park in Green Bay, the barren plot of land that has made up much of the scenery there will now have a much more visually aesthetic future, thanks in part to some assistance from the Green Bay Packers.

After being provided with more than 450 trees last Monday from Meacham Nursery in Green Bay, the Packers’ ‘First Downs for Trees’ program got to work planting some of the trees in various Brown County communities. With the concerted efforts of students from Red Smith School and Packers President/CEO, Mark Murphy, the group planted 12 trees at Red Smith Park last Wednesday, April 27.

It was a day for the students to not only “green up” the treeless park behind their school, but also a day to kick off the first official tree-planting event of the Packers’ program.

Students, along with Murphy; Green Bay Mayor, Jim Schmitt; Green Bay District 1 common council member, Jerry Wiezbiskie; members of the Wisconsin DNR forestry department and Wisconsin Public Service all helped lend a hand to plant the trees.

‘First Downs for Trees’ is a Green Bay Packers Green Team program in conjunction with Wisconsin Public Service, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and local forestry and parks departments in Northeastern Wisconsin. Its goal is to add more than 300 trees to area sites each year.

The 462 trees provided countywide were the result of the Packers’ pledge to donate one tree for every first down gained during the 2010 NFL regular season. This past season the team tallied 312 first downs, thus it provided 312 trees, while Meacham Nursery generously donated an additional 150 trees, augmenting the final tree count.

“This whole program has been great,” said Jeff Meacham, owner of Meacham Nursery. “I’m just glad that we can play a role in contributing to the community and the Packers. I hope this is a program we can continue to be a part of for many years.”

Greg Kirchmayer, Wisconsin Public Service forester, was confident the program would be a success and was thrilled to partner with the Packers.

“What a great concept this is,” Kirchmayer said. “It is such a positive initiative and really, who wouldn’t want to have a ‘Packers’ tree?

“It has been a lot of work but really a lot of fun. Everyone has contributed a great amount of time and effort. Meacham Nursery did a spot-on job as did the DNR. The more trees we are able to put out there the better. I can’t wait to see the program grow.”

Tracy Salisbury, Wisconsin’s DNR regional urban forestry coordinator, was pleased to see all the hard work pay off.

“There has been an overwhelmingly positive response from the municipalities, the Oneida Tribe and Brown County,” Salisbury said. “Everyone wants a ‘Packers’ tree planted in their community.”

‘First Downs for Trees,’ which was first announced last June at Skyline Park in Ashwaubenon, was initiated to help get more trees planted and as a way for the Packers to offset the 450 tons of carbon dioxide produced during travel to road games.

“Not only will these trees help reduce the Packers’ carbon footprint, they will reduce storm water runoff, keep us cooler in the summer thus resulting in energy savings, increase property values and improve the overall quality of life in the communities,” Salisbury said.

And for Meacham, Salisbury and Kirchmayer, their hopes of continuing the partnership with the Packers’ ‘First Downs for Trees’ program look promising, as Packers interim director of public relations Aaron Popkey has confirmed that the program is also scheduled for next year.

“I really have to commend the Packers,” Salisbury said. “I have received great feedback from the participating communities. They all would like to send the Packers and Mark Murphy thank-you cards to show their appreciation and to keep the program going.”

More than 20 communities will host their own tree planting event this upcoming month with the trees provided by the Packers and Meacham Nursery. Wisconsin Public Service has generously provided yard signs for each participating ‘First Downs for Trees’ community to display at their tree-planting event.

“This is such a valuable and exciting partnership between the Packers organization, WPS, DNR and Brown County communities, where each partner is achieving goals which address critical environmental issues,” said Salisbury.

“The timing of this partnership could not have been better. This project enables communities to plant trees without putting additional strain on already tight budgets.”

And after a successful season of the program’s first official year, there is no doubt the Packers, Wisconsin Public Service, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and local forestry and parks departments in Northeastern Wisconsin are ready to see ‘First Downs for Trees’ become an annual event.

To view photos click here.