Friday, April 29, 2011

Happy Arbor Day!

It's been an Arbor Day to remember. In fact, in American Fork, it's shaping into a month to remember.

  • Last Saturday, April 23, members of the Utah Community Forest Council descended on Robinson Park (at the library) for a day of volunteer service. Trees were pruned throughout the park, and a dangerous and decaying tree, a large Siberian elm east of the picnic pavilion, was removed.

  • Next month, on Saturday, May 21, the Forest Council will return to Robinson Park for -- get this -- a tree climbing contest. Hosted in partnership with the International Society of Arboriculture, this will be the 17th Annual Utah Tree Climbing Championship. Contestants will compete in five events (Work Climb, Aerial Rescue, Belayed Speed Climb, Secured Foot Lock, and Throw Line) for some serious prizes, with the Master Challenge winner receiving $2,000 to attend the International Tree Climb Competition in Sydney, Australia.

  • Earlier this week, the American Fork City Council, keeping an annual tradition, authorized Mayor Hadfield to sign the Arbor Day Proclamation.

  • Earlier today, the mayor presided over the planting of ten new trees at Rotary Park, where, due to the age of the tree canopy, reforestation has become a critical need. Trees for this effort were donated by Rocky Mountain Power and Tri-City Nursery, with additional trees purchased by the City's Beautification and Shade Tree Committee.

  • Rocky Mountain, pursuing its interest in energy efficiency, also placed two deciduous trees near windows at the fitness center. During the hot summer months, the trees will lower cooling costs by providing shade. During the cold winter months, they will lower heating costs by allowing sunlight to filter through the windows.

  • At noon today, I was pleased to join the mayor, members of the Beautification Committee, and officials from Rocky Mountain Power for the ceremony at Rotary Park. Prior to our arrival, the parks department had removed several dead trees and placed the new trees in their holes. The wind was brisk, but we stayed just long enough to throw a handful of dirt into a hole and listen to the mayor's remarks on the history of Arbor Day.
    The mayor's remarks:
    On January 4, 1872, J. Sterling Morton proposed to the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture a tree-planting holiday to be called "Arbor Day." An Arbor Day Celebration was held on April 10, 1872 with prizes offered to counties and individuals who properly planted the largest number of trees on that day. It was estimated that more than one million trees were planted in Nebraska on the first Arbor Day.

    In 1885, Arbor Day was named a legal holiday in Nebraska and April 22, Morton's birthday, was selected as the date for its permanent observance. According to accounts from the Nebraska City News, April 1885, the city celebrated Arbor Day with a grand parade and a speech by Mr. Morton. Students of different grades met at their respective school rooms in the morning for the purpose of planting at least one tree. Each tree was labeled with the grade, the time planted, and was to be especially cared for by that grade.

    During the 1870s, other states passed legislation to observe Arbor Day, and the tradition began in schools nationwide in 1882. Today the most common date for the state observance is the last Friday in April, and several U.S. presidents have proclaimed National Arbor Day on that date.

    Arbor Day was originally a more material celebration than sentimental. In the treeless states of Nebraska and Kansas, the lack of forests was severely felt, both in the scarcity of native timber for building purposes and in the irregularity of rainfall. Trees were needed to conserve and increase material wealth.

    In pioneer days, a forest seemed an obstacle to development rather than an aid. Trees were often viewed as enemies to progress and civilization and only seen as firewood. Their beauty was not appreciated until the development of cities and towns and then they were no longer viewed for just material purposes.

    Arbor Day takes its place with Washington's and Lincoln's birthdays and other national holidays. One difference with Arbor Day as compared to the other national holidays is that Arbor Day is the only occasion devoted to the future, rather than the past. Its purpose is to accomplish something which, in years to come, will benefit the community at large.

    Arbor Day does not just stand for planting trees, although this is one of the primary objectives. It also stands for improving civic conditions, a movement in behalf of more beautiful surroundings, and educates the youth about trees and flowers, and encourages people to take delight in their cultivation.

    As a Tree City USA, American Fork City strives hard to plant new trees and to maintain our existing trees in our parks, on City-owned land, and encourages residents to also plant and maintain trees. I am excited to be here today to celebrate Arbor Day and participate in planting new trees that will be enjoyed and appreciated for years to come.

    May you enjoy this Arbor Day and become actively engaged in planting and caring for trees and encouraging others to have a deep respect and appreciation for the material and aesthetic values that trees provide our great community.

    Thank you, Mayor Hadfield, for supporting Arbor Day in American Fork.

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