RUTLAND, Vt. – An army of volunteers and dozens of flowering crabapples gave a city gateway a flowering makeover Wednesday.

Rutland Blooms volunteers from Berkshire Bank, City of Rutland, Green Mountain Power, NeighborWorks of Western Vermont, Rutland Regional Medical Center, Stafford Technical Center, The Vermont Country Store, Vermont Council of Urban and Community Forestry and Wilk Paving planted 76 flowering crabapple trees along West Street, with support from Village Snack Bar.

“Rutland Blooms and these volunteers have made an enormous contribution to the beauty of this gateway to the city,” Mayor Chris Louras said.  “Projects like this have a tremendous impact on the look and feel of the city.  Like all the improvements downtown, this project adds to Rutland’s quality of life and the growing sense of optimism.”

“Projects like this, working in partnership with the community, signify our collective commitment to Rutland’s future,” GMP President and CEO Mary Powell said.

The trees, purchased by Rutland Blooms with donations from Casella’s, GMP, The Vermont Country Store and Rutland Regional Medical Center, replaced scrub brush and nuisance trees along roughly 1,700 feet of the south side of the street.  The site borders a rail siding, the city’s winter snow dump and a recycling facility.

GMP Vice President Steve Costello said the project required collaboration by dozens of people, businesses and organizations.  “From the first discussion of the project, every business and organization we reached out to for help embraced it,” Costello said.  “Everyone we talked to said ‘What can I do to help?’ We had donors willing to pay for the trees within a couple of days.  We had dozens of volunteers within a week.”

Casella’s, GMP, Rutland Regional Medical Center and The Vermont Country Store donated $2,500 each to pay for the trees and associated materials. Wilk Paving dug the holes for the trees, which the volunteers planted under supervision from city forester Dave Schneider.

“This project will have an impact on this street for decades,” said Eliot Orton, proprietor of The Vermont Country Store.  “Each spring, the colorful blossoms will be a welcome sign to folks coming into Rutland from Rutland Town.”

Rutland Regional President Tom Heubner said he embraced Rutland Blooms for its visual and emotional impact.  “Rutland is a great little city with a bright future, and these trees and this project symbolize our commitment to the city and belief in that future,” Huebner said.

“This project will have a huge impact on the streetscape,” John Casella said.  “It’s already a major improvement, but as the trees grow wider and fill in, they will have a dramatic aesthetic effect.”

Rutland Blooms is a grassroots beautification project started by GMP in 2013, part of GMP’s ongoing effort to support the revitalization of Rutland.  Other Rutland Blooms projects – funded by donations from local businesses and individuals – are being planned through the fall.  The Vermont Teddy Bear Company will give a bear dressed as a gardener to the first 10 people to donate at least $250 to Rutland Blooms.  Donations will be used to pay for plants, seeds, bulbs and planting materials for use in public community spaces.

Donations may be sent to United Way of Rutland County-Rutland Blooms, 6 Church St., Rutland, VT 05701.