Three decades ago, the Great Bend City Tree Board took part in a Tree City USA challenge, issued by the Arbor Day Foundation. The tree board met regularly, the mayor proclaimed Great Bend a Tree City and proclaimed April 25 National Arbor Day, encouraging people to plant trees, and the Tree Board began an ongoing project to beautify the city through the planting of redbud trees.
Now, years later, history continues to repeat itself, as Great Bend was awarded its 31st consecutive designation as a Tree City on Wednesday afternoon by Bryan Peterson, Northwest District Forester with the Kansas Forest Service.
That wasn’t the only tree related activity in Great Bend last week. Members of the Tree Board visited area elementary schools to provide instruction on how to plant redbud trees and gave a baby tree, called a whip, to each fourth grader to take home and plant.
In addition, trees were planted along city right-of-ways and parks, some with the help of Great Bend High School students taking part in their second annual community service day. And the Argonne Forest, located in Veterans Memorial Park, received the first of several new trees that will soon replenish the drought-stricken area that provides the public an opportunity to see how different trees perform under local conditions. This can be handy when considering planting a new tree--something the tree board and Great Bend City Manager Howard Partington hope more residents will do as drought conditions (hopefully) give way to normal annual precipitation levels and temperatures.
Great Bend Redbud tradition
Each year, the Great Bend City Tree Board provides a Redbud seedling to each fourth grader in all five of the elementary schools in USD 428, as well as those at Holy Family School and Central Kansas Christian Academy. That’s over 200 Redbuds each year. And that is why each spring, all over the city, yards and streets are punctuated with a floral display ranging from light to deep pink as the buds bloom as spring transforms from cool to warm.
“Trees my sister and I planted are still alive at our mother’s home,” said Michael Fletcher, Tree Board member and arborist. Wednesday, he was at Holy Family School with Peterson teaching fourth graders how to properly plant a tree. Redbud trees are a hardy smaller tree, in part because they have tap roots that travel deep in search of water, as well as shallow feeder roots that spread out and provide additional nutrients and stability to the tree. Fletcher demonstrated the proper depth to plant the tree, while Peterson explained the difference between above ground cells compared to below ground cells in trees. They also discussed the proper lighting and how to prepare the soil where the baby trees would be planted. The students learned fast, and eagerly waited in line at the end of the day to receive their tree which they promised to take home and plant right away so it would have the best chance of survival.
Forest Service district poster contest winner from Great Bend
Kylie Trendel, a fifth grade student at Lincoln Elementary School, arrived at the Veterans Memorial Park Argonne Forest Wednesday afternoon with her parents clearly pleased and excited about the fuss being made over her poster.
She and her classmates took part in a statewide tree poster contest sponsored by the Kansas Forestry Service in recognition of Arbor Day. This year’s theme was “Trees are Terrific...In Kansas Cities and Towns.” Five winners were selected from 300 entries in the Forestry Service’s Northwest district, and Kylie’s entry was chosen as the top entry for the district. Her poster now goes on to state judging.
At the district level, Kylie won $300 to go towards the purchase of a tree of her choice, which she helped plant Wednesday. She chose a Sugar Maple, which the Great Bend Tree Board helped her select with an eye towards suitability to the area.
Bryan Peterson, District Forester with the Kansas Forest Service, also presented Kylie with her original poster professionally framed, and an additional framed display including her poster and those of the other district’s winning posters.
In addition, Kylie and four runners-up from Great Bend received Great Bend Chamber of Commerce gift certificates, $50 for Kylie and $20 for runners-up Kirsten Miessler, and Dinah Newman, also students at Lincoln Elementary School; Aubrey Snapp, a student at Holy Family School; and Miguel Martinez, a student at Park Elementary School.
The students were also recognized by Great Bend Mayor Mike Allison that afternoon when he proclaimed Great Bend as a “Tree City,” a designation the city has qualified for through the efforts of the Tree Board for 31 years in a row.
Kylie and other fifth grade students at Lincoln Elementary will also receive Redbud seedlings courtesy of International Transmission Company. The company has been building high voltage transmission lines for more than 25 years. Eric Ivey, a community relations representative of the company, said they liked the idea of providing the Redbuds because the trees are power line compatible, providing a nice shade canopy without danger of growing into overhead lines.