MARGAHOVIT, Armenia–Armenia Tree Project (ATP) officially inaugurated its Mirak Family Reforestation Nursery in Margahovit, during a visit by Dr. Robert Mirak who is the program’s primary benefactor. Dr. Mirak visited the nursery on July 17 with his sister Muriel Mirak-Weissbach and a group of Armenian-Americans from the St. James Armenian Apostolic Church of Watertown, led by Rev. Fr. Arakel Aljalian.
The site of ATP’s large-scale reforestation nursery was blessed by Rev. Aljalian, and opening remarks were given by ATP Yerevan Director Mher Sadoyan and ATP Deputy Director Jason Sohigian. “A few years ago, the Mirak Family contacted ATP looking for a new project to support. I remember visiting with Dr. Mirak and his daughters Jennifer and Julia, when our executive director described our goal of establishing our own reforestation nursery here in northern Armenia, which was hardest hit by deforestation after independence,” recounted Sohigian.
“This nursery has allowed ATP to expand its capacity in reforestation, and this program has served as a launching pad for our partnership with Yale University’s school of forestry. Experts from Yale have worked here in the local forests with Armenian volunteers and professionals to help us prepare a sustainable forestry manual which will instruct local residents on how to both use and also protect the resources provided by our forests for use by future generations,” he added.
The event was attended by Margahovit Mayor Seyran Ananyan, as well as the mayors of Aygut and Aghavnavank, where ATP is working with the local communities to implement reforestation programs. The 15-acre nursery was established in 2005 with the support of the John Mirak Foundation, which also funded a significant portion of its operational costs for five years. This nursery has the capacity to produce one million tree seedlings per year, which has greatly expanded ATP’s reforestation programs in northern Armenia.
Dr. Mirak and his sister Muriel cut a ribbon for a memorial stone at the site, which is dedicated to the memory of their parents John and Artemis Mirak who were survivors of the Armenian Genocide from Arapkir. “As a true Armenian, my father had special love for trees. For that reason he planted four trees in his backyard garden and named them after his four children. He nurtured those seedlings with so much love, and his trees gave a bountiful harvest of fruit,” recounted Dr. Mirak. “Besides the trees, my father was happy when he was in the mountains, surrounded with nature.”
“My parents never returned to their homeland, but they always wanted to see their beautiful native-land. I am sorry they are not here today to see this marvelous nursery, because it combines everything that they loved so much–the mountains, trees, and programs in Armenia,” continued Dr. Mirak in his remarks. “I know that they are happy now, as this program is sustainable and prosperous. Our family hopes this nursery will flourish and that Armenia will flourish too for thousands and thousands of years.”
After the program, ATP staff led the guests on tours of the nursery, which currently contains over 500,000 seedlings of pine, maple, oak, ash, and other indigenous trees that will be planted in the surrounding hillsides in the coming months and years.
While the guests enjoyed a luncheon of locally grown vegetables and fruits, a group of schoolchildren from the village performed a skit about the importance of trees and their biological functions as part of the interconnected natural world. The group participated in ATP’s environmental education program in Margahovit, which was implemented through the leadership of a local teacher using ATP’s “Plant an Idea, Plant a Tree” curriculum.
In the 1930s, John Mirak established the Arlington Center Garage and Service Corporation. With the involvement of sons Robert, Charles, and Edward, and now members of the third generation of the family, the businesses have expanded to include Mirak Chevrolet/Hyundai, Mirak Properties, and Mirak Leasing. The Mirak Family has contributed to a number of other charitable and education institutions, including Arlington’s hospital, libraries, and the preservation of historic structures, and the Armenian Cultural Foundation in Arlington, MA.
Since 1994, Armenia Tree Project has planted and restored more than 2,000,000 trees and created hundreds of jobs for impoverished Armenia’s in tree-regeneration programs. The organization’s three tiered initiatives are tree planting, community development to reduce poverty and promote self-sufficiency, and environmental education to protect Armenia’s precious natural resources. For additional information, visit the web site www.armeniatree.org.