Free redbud saplings were available to everyone who attended Great Bend’s Arbor Day celebration Saturday at the Argonne Forest. The Great Bend Tree Board presented a program that also included free ice cream bars, the planting of a Sawtooth Oak tree and a walking tour of the arboretum located in Veterans Memorial Park.
District Forester Jami Seirer from the Kansas Forest Service presented Tree Board members with a “Tree City USA” flag. This is the 36th year that Great Bend has earned Tree City status from the Arbor Day Foundation.
“Great Bend is the only city in the state of Kansas that has gotten the Growth Award for over five years,” Seirer said. Cities must meet certain criteria to earn the Tree City USA designation and the Growth Award recognizes a higher level of tree care by participating communities. The City of Great Bend maintains its own tree nursery located at the Expo grounds, under the care of certified arborist Doug Burt. The nursery has been in existence since 1995 and covers approximately seven acres. It has more than 1,500 trees, including species such as Burr Oak, Northern Red Oak, Pecan, Black Walnut, Sawtooth Oak, Sycamore, Ponderosa Pine, Cottonwood, Lacebark Elm, Locust, Pin Oak and Bald Cypress.
Mayor Joe Andrasek was on hand to read an Arbor Day proclamation. Great Bend Middle School student Natalie Williams and her sister Ailey, who attends Lincoln Elementary School, helped Burt and others plant the Sawtooth Oak tree as Seirer explained some tree-planting tips. Natalie was the winner of the Tree Board’s poster contest in 2016 and there is already a Smoketree in the arboretum that was planted in her honor.
Lisa Whipple, Tree Board secretary, shared a bit of Arbor Day history. It began in 1872 when J. Sterling Morton, a Nebraska newspaper editor who loved trees, proposed a tree-planting holiday to be called “Arbor Day” at a meeting of the State Board of Agriculture. The day would have a contest with prizes for planting the largest number of trees. “More than one million trees were planted in the state of Nebraska in that one day,” Whipple said.
Arbor Day went on to become a Nebraska holiday and then other states followed suit. Today, all 50 states have an official Arbor Day, usually at a time with the best weather conditions for planting trees.
While other celebrations commemorate things that have already happened, Arbor Day celebrations are always forward-looking, Whipple said. “Arbor Day is a holiday that reflects hope for the future.”
Marcus Richardson, owner of Richardson Tree Service in Haven, gave a program on biochar, a type of charcoal made from trees and used as a soil additive. Levi Shartzer from the Great Bend FedEx Freight provided the free redbuds.