Some communities don't observe Arbor Day. But in Cedaredge, Arbor Day is a big deal.
On April 24, the Cedaredge Tree Board observed Arbor Day with fifth grade students from Cedaredge Elementary School. The occasion marked the 23rd consecutive year that the town has earned designation as a Tree City USA by the National Arbor Day Foundation.
Tree Board Chairman Jim Leser told the assembled students, "You may have noticed that there are signs on the north and south sides of our town along Highway 65 that proclaim that we have been recognized as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation. In 1976 the Arbor Day Foundation, in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and National Association of State Foresters, launched the Tree City USA program. Now 41 years later, this program continues to recognize communities demonstrating a commitment of caring for and managing community trees with over 3,400 towns and cities participating."
Arbor Day in Cedaredge has become a community and school partnership for educational enrichment. Students learn about trees in unit studies leading up to the Arbor Day tree planting event. The fifth graders apparently did their homework well as they answered the questions about trees put to them by Leser, by Kamie Long, district forester with the Colorado State Forest Service, and by sixth grade middle school students assisting with the events.
Students also learned that planting of trees on the west and east sides a home can reduce air-conditioning costs by as much as 20 percent. Also, in the winter, evergreens planted on the north side can create windbreaks, which can cut heating bills by as much as 30 percent.
This year, in addition to planting trees, fifth grade students agreed to write poems or short stories about trees. Their teachers selected a couple from each of their classes to read from Mrs. Whitney's class, Mr. Henderson's class, and from Mr. Thompson's class.
Chosen for this year's planting were three prairiefire crabapple trees (Malus prairiefire) that were planted with the students' help on a grassy knoll at the south side of the elementary school. The tree board selected the site because it will provide an educational opportunity for the fifth grade students to watch the trees they helped plant grow during their upcoming three middle school years. "You are looking to the future, a future where many generations can enjoy the fruits of your efforts," Leser told the students.
As part of the educational focus of the event, there was a demonstration on how to prepare a balled and burlap-wrapped tree for planting. "If you will form two lines, each of you will shovel soil into the planting holes so that the tree's roots will grow and the tree will flourish. You might even consider naming these trees," Leser suggested. Each of the three classes did name the tree they helped plant: Harold, Little Nikki and Sacajatreea.
"These trees will provide a nice grouping of trees with glossy maroon or purplish-red leaves in spring," Leser explained. "The leaves become dark green with purplish-red veins in the summer then a beautiful bronze color in autumn. In addition, there will be pink to red flowers in the spring followed by small red apples later in the season. We will cage these trees to provide protection from browsing deer. These trees were provided to us by Valley Grown Nursery in Grand Junction at a greatly reduced cost."
A town proclamation was read by Mayor Gene Welch which said in part, "Arbor Day is more than a holiday. It is a promise to the Earth - celebrating a desire to enrich our communities with the natural abundance that trees bring to our lives.
"Today we celebrate trees in our community. I urge all citizens to plant trees to gladden the heart and promote the well-being of this and future generations."
Leser concluded his remarks to the students saying, "I want to thank all of you for being a part of our 2017 Arbor Day celebration and especially the students and teachers from the Cedaredge Elementary School. As the town's tree board, we strive to promote the planting and maintenance of healthy trees in our community. Not only do trees enhance the beauty around our homes and in our neighborhoods and in our parks, but also are a valuable asset in other ways as well," Leser said.
A few remarks on the history of Arbor Day were included as part of the educational focus:
Arbor Day was the brainchild of Julius Sterling Morton, a Nebraskan journalist who later became the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture under President Grover Cleveland. Morton was an enthusiastic promoter of tree planting and had long championed the idea of a day dedicated to planting trees. Arbor Day was first celebrated in Nebraska on April 10, 1874. In less than a decade, the idea for the holiday caught on in other states until, by 1882, its observance had become a national event. An estimated one million trees were planted during the first Arbor Day. Do you know how Arbor Day became so successful? It was through public school student participation such as we are doing today. It is even celebrated internationally.