Michael Fletcher, arborist with the Great Bend Tree Board, marked a decades long Arbor Day tradition with fifth graders at Great Bend elementary schools and Holy Family Catholic School Friday afternoon. Each spring, the Great Bend Tree Board distributes redbud tree seedlings to fourth grade students in the district as part of its ongoing community outreach project with the National Arbor Day Society.
It’s projects like these that have allowed Great Bend to be designated a Tree City USA for several years running. It’s also helped to make Great Bend a beautiful town to live in, and provide shade and a cooling canopy around the city.
“We’d also like you to plant these trees so someday, when you are all grown up, you’ll have a reason to come back and visit Great Bend and see how that tree you planted is doing,” Fletcher added. This is something he has had the chance to do. Fletcher was once a recipient of one of the tree board’s trees as a youth.
At maturity, the redbuds could reach between 20-30 feet high with a span of up to 30 feet, he said. He advised students that if they can’t plant the tree at home, they can find a friend, relative or neighbor to give the tree to. In the past few years, Great Bend has lost about 50 percent of the trees in its canopy from drought and age, he said.
Before his presentation, Fletcher and tree board representatives Lisa Whipple and Toni Rice met with Lincoln fifth grader Natalie Williams. She is the winner of the 2016 poster contest sponsored each year by the board. In addition to her award, she will receive a framed print of her poster, as well as the honor of planting a tree with Mayor Mike Allison at the Argonne Forest at Veterans Memorial Park. Williams chose a smoke tree as her contribution to the growing arboretum. A plaque with her name will also be placed beside her tree. Inclement weather Friday prompted the board to postpone the tree planting until the following week.