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White pines help beautify downtown corridor in Massena

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MASSENA - Two white pine trees that should live to be 150 years old are helping brighten up the downtown corridor in Massena.

Michael V. Almasian and Crista M. Makdouli, who serve as co-chairs for the Blue and Green Committee as part of the Massena Downtown Coalition, bought and planted the trees this week with the help of Shawn K. Burke, president of Burke Excavation & Demolition, Inc., Massena, who provided a back hoe.

They’re located on the Main Street frontage of Rite Aid in downtown Massena.

“I bought one and Crista bought one. We just wanted to prime the pump and get the ball rolling. This is how downtown gets done,” said Mr. Almasian, who formerly served as the executive director for the Business Development Corporation for a Greater Massena before relocating to Connecticut.

He said he still returns to Massena at least once a month. “This is my fourth time back,” he said.

The trees that now stand along Main Street are about 10 years old and stand around 12 feet tall.

“We’ve planted enough maples. Now it’s time for pine. We chose white pine because they last about 150 years and grow about 150 feet tall. It’s the tallest pine in the east,” Mr. Almasian said.

“They’ll grow tall, but not block Rite Aid. As they grow, all you will see is the trunk,” he said.

Rite Aid officials were receptive to the planting, according to Mr. Almasian.

“We approached them, and it was all green lights,” he said.

Mr. Almasian said that, as he began digging, he found gravel, rocks, boulders, wires and other items which kept him from digging deep enough to plant the trees. That’s where Mr. Burke entered the picture.

“Crista saved my neck by calling Shawn. Shawn saved my neck,” he said.

He said the Blue and Green Committee is responsible for landscaping, trees and water resources along Main Street from the Grasse River to the Raquette River.

“Right now the current working definition of downtown is river to river,” Mr. Almasian said.

Their next goal, he said, is to fix up a fountain in the Elm Street Circle park as they watch their new white pines grow skyward to beautify the downtown area.

The Massena Downtown Coalition is an all-volunteer effort initiated by the BDC and guided by In.Site Architecture, a firm that specializes in downtown revitalization projects.

Several committees, including the Blue and Green Committee, are working on different areas such as historic preservation designations to bringing back the downtown theater.

BDC Chairman Daniel S. Pease said he was appreciative of the efforts by Mr. Almasian, Ms. Makdouli and Mr. Burke.

“I saw the trees. They look beautiful. It’s an excellent first step for bringing the downtown back. That’s precisely the type of work that we’re hoping to continue going forward. It’s a step in the right direction,” Mr. Pease said.

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