Local photographer donates, plants five trees in city parks

Contact: Marshall Swearingen    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
City Tree Board      Sept. 22, 2020

Local photographer donates, plants five trees in city parks

LIVINGSTON — Future generations will enjoy the shade of five trees that well-known local photographer Tom Murphy has donated for Livingston's parks.

Murphy, along with members of Livingston's City Tree Board, planted four maple trees near the bandshell at Miles Park and one oak tree along the west edge of Sacajawea Park on Tuesday. 

Murphy said he decided to donate the trees, valued at several hundred dollars because he noticed that people gravitate toward the few areas of shade in Miles Park during events like the farmers market. He said he had wanted to make the donation anonymous, but hoped that sharing the news would inspire others to donate trees to the city.

"We are very grateful for this donation," said tree board member Marshall Swearingen. "The trees we enjoy and admire around Livingston are the result of people like Tom taking the initiative to plant them."

Murphy noted that Christine Whiteside contributed money for one of the trees in honor of her late husband Peter Bowen, the Livingston writer who died in April.

Donations of trees to the city are always welcome, Swearingen said. The city has a relatively small tree budget and much of it goes toward removing or pruning problematic or dead trees and cleaning up storm damage, so most new trees in city parks are funded with grants, he said. There are many areas of the city that could use more trees, he added.

The city planted about a dozen new trees in Sacajawea Park last fall as part of a roughly $40,000 project that included an $8,000 grant from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. Dozens of ash trees in the park were pruned as part of the project.

Roughly half of Livingston's public trees in parks and along streets are ash trees vulnerable to emerald ash borer, an invasive insect approaching Montana and killing hundreds of millions of ash trees in its wake. Planting other species now will help to mitigate the likely loss of hundreds or even thousands of ash trees in the city, Swearingen said. Homeowners can fill out a simple form available on the tree board website to plant trees in their street boulevard, he noted.

In addition to developing a plan for emerald ash borer, the tree board is exploring ways that volunteers can be more engaged with planting and maintaining city trees, Swearingen said. Some options being discussed are an Adopt-a-Tree program and an organization that could organize volunteers for projects like the planting of Murphy's donated trees. Currently, the city Parks and Trails Committee has an Adopt-A-Trail/Park program that can include tree work.

Anyone interested in donating trees to the city or sharing ideas about how people can get involved with city trees can email the tree board at

The tree board currently has an open seat for a youth member and will be announcing at least one other vacancy later this year, Swearingen said. The one-page application form can be found on the city commission website.

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