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Tree Board mulls Argonne Forest project
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Trees in the forest

A ginko tree in the Argonne Forest on the north side of Veterans Memorial Park was planted in memory of Ray “Jiggs” Schulz.
Here is a list of tree species currently in the forest. Those with signs are marked with an *:

Scotch pine*
Ponderosa pine*
Bald cypress
Moraine locust*
Shade master locust*
Skyline locust*
Robust pulp locust*
Autumn blaze maple
Silver maple
Thornless Osage
Smoke tree*
Austrian pine
Pine oak*
White oak*
Bur oak*
Red oak*
Saw tooth oak
Lace bark elm
Hack berry
Green ash
Crab apple
Bradford pear
Red bud

The trees are there, but most people don’t see the forest on the north side of Veterans Memorial Park. Now the Great Bend Tree Board is in the budding stages of a project to “rejuvenate, restore and refurbish” the area known as the Argonne Forest.
Tree Board member Toni Rice suggested doing something with the forest as a year-end project, and President Charles Waknitz immediately named Rice chairman of the project. Along with board member Doug Burt, the city arborist, they assembled a group of volunteers from outside the board to begin planning. That group met for the first time last Thursday.
There are more than 50 trees in the Argonne Forest at present, and about a dozen with signs to identify the species. Part of a walking trail and disc golf course are in that part of the park, and the Kiwanis hold their annual Easter Egg Hunt there.
Rice said there’s plenty of space for more trees, although Terry Hoff, director of the Parks Department, pointed out other park uses need to be taken into consideration. It turns out the north side of the park is being used more and more, from the beginning of the “12 Days of Christmas” lights in December to the addition of a dog park on the west side. This past weekend the area was also used for the Oozefest mud volleyball tournament and other Party in the Park activities.
Members of the Barton County Historical Society noted most people don’t know why Great Bend has an Argonne Forest – or American Legion Argonne Post 180  or the former Argonne Rebels Drum and Bugle Corps. In World War I, many soldiers from Barton and Pawnee County ended up fighting in the Argonne Forest of France. City Attorney Robert Suelter talked about some of that history during Thursday’s Argonne Forest Project meeting. “They were called up and shipped to France with little training,” he said. “They saw some pretty gruesome action.”
This means the future Argonne Forest Project may also be a history project, observing the centennial of World War I, which began in 1914. The United States declared war on Germany in 1917, and the official ending date of the war was Nov. 11, 1918.
The project will also be about trees, and Rice noted Great Bend has been part of Tree City USA since 1981. The city offers a tree rebate program through the Tree Board, reimbursing half the cost of planting one or two trees, up to $75 per tree, if certain conditions are met. There is a list of acceptable and preferred trees. Committee members said it would be nice to see one of each tree variety in the Great Bend’s Argonne Forest, and perhaps signs to let people know how large species grow and other information. Rice would also like to see some sort of arbor or other entrance to the area.
While the planning has only just begun, Rice said the Tree Board will be letting the public know how to get involved. It was noted that community involvement has always been important to maintaining the forest. Jiggs Schulz and Don Humphreys were mentioned as two residents who helped create the Argonne Forest, and many trees were planted by the Rotary Club and Kiwanis, or as memorials.