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Contaminated lot in Providence turned into nursery

Greenery will go to poorest areas

PROVIDENCE — A nonprofit that promotes urban ecology has transformed a contaminated lot in Providence into a nursery to grow trees that will help increase the tree cover in some of the city’s poorest and least green neighborhoods.

On Friday morning, Groundwork Providence marked the official opening in the city’s Elmwood section of the Hope Tree Nursery, an inviting green space amid a sea of red brick in an industrial area that housed metal manufacturers.

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The nursery, which sits on a brownfields site, was redeveloped by a crew with GroundCorp, a social enterprise of Groundwork Providence that provides on-the-job training and transitional employment to graduates of Groundwork’s environmental job-training programs. It will eventually have about 300 trees.

Groundwork Providence rents the parcel from Rhode Island Housing for $1 a year. The pilot project cost about $30,000, said Ray Perreault, director of Groundwork Providence’s Trees 2020 program, an initiative aimed at boosting the city’s tree cover. The money came from private and federal sources.

‘‘I hope to have nurseries like this eventually across the city,’’ he said.

The 4,500-square-foot nursery contains 27 varieties, ranging from sassafras and scrub oak to black walnut and hornbeam. Because no soil can be removed from the site, the trees are grown ‘‘pot in pot,’’ with one pot nestled in the ground and the other, holding the tree, placed inside it.

The first trees are expected to be removed for transplantation elsewhere in about three years. They will be offered at low cost, perhaps less than $15, to residents in neighborhoods that do not have a lot of trees, including Elmwood.

Sharon Conard-Wells, executive director of the West Elmwood Housing Development Corp., said she looks forward to eventually having tree-lined streets in the community, which she said improves the quality of life.

‘‘The trees will help to soften that edge, make it feel more like community,’’ she said, noting the brick buildings surrounding the nursery.

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