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Tree Board makes Argonne Forest a priority
new slt tree board
Charles Waknitz and Lisa Whipple from the Great Bend Tree Board are shown with a recently planted River Birch, and a sign that will be posted near the tree. Improving the Argonne Forest area on the north side of Veterans Memorial Park is part of an accelerated tree planting program. - photo by Susan Thacker/Great Bend Tribune


The Great Bend Tree Board’s Trick or Tree photography contest ends Oct. 31. Photos of Barton County trees can be dropped off at the Great Bend City Office or emailed to Include contact information, location of the tree and other pertinent information.
There are five categories and there will be a $50 gift certificate and a bag of Halloween candy awarded in each category. Categories are:
- Family Tree- (Family picture/story with tree)
- Biggest (Single tree trunk diameter measured 4 ½ feet from the ground)
- Most unusual species
- Most beautiful fall colors
- Tree with the most interesting story or historical significance

The Great Bend Tree Board recently added 10 trees to the Argonne Forest on the north edge of Veterans Memorial Park, with plans to plant more in the spring, according to Charles Waknitz, chairman of the organization.
More than a year ago, the Tree Board announced plans to revitalize the area and share some of its history. Now, the Argonne project has become Phase One of a citywide accelerated tree planting program, said Lisa Whipple, Tree Board secretary.
“We are happy to reestablish and renovate the Argonne Forest,” Whipple said.“It’s our hope to bring back some of the history — the reason this was planted in the first place.”
Toward the end of World War I in 1918, many area residents who fought in the U.S. Army found themselves in the Argonne Forest of France. The legacy of their deeds lived on with the naming of the Great Bend’s American Legion Argonne Post 180, the Argonne Rebels Drum and Bugle Corps, and the Argonne Forest at Veterans Memorial Park.
The Tree Board hopes to make it a true arboretum — a sort of tree zoo where people can view trees of different species that are recommended for this area. Residents who are thinking about planting their own trees may want to stop by the Argonne Forest. In addition to planting more trees, the board plans to place signs that give the name of each species and information about how quickly the trees grow, their expected dimensions and lifespan.
“We have 28 of these signs already made,” Whipple said.
The Tree Board offers a rebate program, which pays for half the cost of a new tree, up to $75. There’s also a rebate available for tree removal.
Whipple said she hopes the tree rebate will encourage residents to consider a greater variety of trees when choosing to plant. The rebate may also allow them to add trees that are more mature. Those cost more than seedlings, but often have a better chance of survival.
Waknitz said fall is an excellent time to plant trees — and this fall is especially good because we’ve had plenty of rain. Great Bend needs more trees, he added. “We’ve lost a lot of trees.”
A tree census taken in 2012 showed Great Bend had 42 percent fewer trees on city owned land and right of ways than it had 40 years earlier, Waknitz said.
While adding trees to the Argonne Forest is “Priority One,” Waknitz said other park uses are being taken into consideration. Doug Burt, the city arborist, is a member of the board. Terry Hoff, director of the Great Bend Parks Department, said the Argonne Forest won’t expand beyond its current boundaries or interfere with other uses on the north side of Vets Park, such as disc golf or Party in the Park.
The city added hydrants to the area in the last year and is responsible for watering the trees, Hofff said.
The other priority areas for more trees are city parks, cemetery areas, other city owned areas and so-called “street trees” along city right of ways.
“I’m excited about it,” Waknitz said. “It’s important that we get trees planted.”
“We’re interested in finding other areas where there could be additional trees,” Hoff said. “We have lost quite a few trees over time. We definitely need a program where we can address that. The Tree Board has been especially helpful.”