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Garden Club learns history and future of Great Bends Argonne Forest
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At their January meeting, 15 members of Great Bend Garden Club received a wealth of information about the work of a small group of people working hard for the betterment of Great Bend. Garden Club member Toni Rice is also a member of the Great Bend Tree Board and during her recent program Toni enthusiastically told  the history of the Tree Board and of Great Bend’s status as a Tree City USA.
To fulfill their purposes of planting, educating and beautifying, the Tree Board sponsors a number of tree-related activities each year:
• A poster contest for 5th graders
• A 4th grade redbud tree planting project for Arbor Day
• Trick or Tree photo contest
• Rebate program for citizens planting approved trees which are visible to the public
• Helping with the Community Orchard project being developed through a Barton County Extension grant.
Now, the Tree Board also has a program for the accelerated planting of trees in Great Bend’s public places. This is because Great Bend has lost 50 percent of its trees to the drought and to Dutch elm disease over the years.
To retain its status as a Tree City USA, the Tree Board must have a yearly project and this year it is beginning Phase 1 of the renewal of the Argonne Forest, located in the northeast corner of Vets Park.
The Argonne Forest in Great Bend was initiated  by Jiggs Schulz to honor Great Bend soldiers of World War I. Hoping to complete the renewal by the year 2018 (the 100th anniversary of the ending of World War I),  the goal is four-fold: to remove the dead and dying trees of the original “forest”; to design and built a beautiful arbor entrance and natural pathway winding through a forest full of the trees which are recommended in the tree rebate program; to label those trees with attractive, weather-proof signs which illustrate the trees and give their growth statistics; and to provide signs which tells the  story of the soldiers from Great Bend who served in the U.S. Army’s Company C and who fought and died in the Argonne Forest of France during the last year of the war.
The first 29 trees will be planted this fall with the identification signs in place.
The Great Bend Garden Club will have its next meeting on Feb. 19 with Sharon East as hostess and Alice Young giving the program.

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