The number of trees in Great Bend is nearly half what it was 40 years, according to a “tree census” taken in 2012 by the city’s Tree Board. City Administrator Howard Partington has asked the board to implement an accelerated tree planting program.
The mayor-appointed Tree Board serves as an advisory board to help beautify the city by the planting of approved species. The board’s efforts have helped Great Bend earn a national Tree City USA designation for 31 years. Great Bend is also listed as a Red Bud City in the Red Bud City USA program.
While the Tree Board has been busy focusing on improving the Argonne Forest in Veterans Memorial Park, efforts are underway to encourage people to plant trees. The board has established a rebate program that can be utilized by the residents of the city if they purchase one of the recommended species. There is also a dead tree removal rebate available to residents.
Now there are plans for a community orchard, Rice said. About a dozen apple trees will be planted inside the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo.
“Alicia Boor at the Barton County Extension wrote the grant for the orchard,” Rice said. “It’s just in the beginning stages.”
Great Bend’s Streetscape program, which included planting trees along city streets, will also be revisited during the accelerated planting program. The plan is to replace some of the street and park trees lost because of drought stress or disease over the years.
Other Tree Board initiatives are aimed at educating children about the importance of trees. The board has a poster contest each year for fifth graders and gives fourth graders a red bud seedling. The programs are open to all five of the elementary schools in USD 428, as well as those at Holy Family School and Central Kansas Christian Academy.
The board also holds a photography contest known as “Trick or Tree” during October.