New Port Richey, FL (Jan. 20, 2015) – Members of the city staff and city council, the city’s Environmental Committee, the New Port Richey Garden Club, and the fourth grade class from Genesis Elementary School celebrated Arbor Day in New Port Richey in grand style on Friday morning, January 16 at Frances Avenue Park on Louisiana Ave. This celebration marked the city’s 26th consecutive year of celebrating Arbor Day, which is part of the recognition the city received in the early 90s as a “Tree City USA.”
The public was invited and also attended by several parents of the children who presented an ode to trees performance during the program.
Former City Council member and chair of the committee, Dell deChant, said a few words about the historic and contemporary context of the event and the City’s reforestation project. “The trees we planted on our first Arbor Day in New Port Richey are 26 years old today. Those original trees, and the young trees we plant today carry dreams in their branches and their leaves — dreams for a greener, cleaner, healthier world,” he said during the official program.
Also giving commentary was Mayor Rob Marlowe, City Manager Debbie Manns, and the New Port Richey Garden Club’s president, Pat Seeley.
After the children’s program, the city’s Public Works and Parks departments helped the children plant a new tree in celebration of Arbor Day and the city’s designation as a National Tree City USA. The tree planted is called a Winged Elm (Ulmus alata) and will mature into a tree measuring 42 feet wide and 42 feet high.
Arbor Day’s History
In 1854 J. Sterling Morton moved from Detroit to the area that is now the state of Nebraska. At that time there were virtually no trees in the area and he and the other pioneers desired to have them in their surroundings. They also noticed that trees were needed to act as windbreaks to stabilize the soil and to provide shade from the sun, fuel and building materials. Morton planted many trees around his own home but wanted to encourage and enable others to do the same.
At a Nebraska State Board of Agriculture meeting on January 4, 1872, he proposed a holiday to plant trees on April 10, 1872. This was known as “Arbor Day” and prizes were awarded to the counties and individuals who planted the most trees on the day. A total of about one million trees were planted in Nebraska on the first Arbor Day.
All states in the the country now have an official Arbor Day, usually at a time of year that is has the correct climatological conditions for planting trees. Many observations of this day are in April, but Florida is one of nearly twenty other states that celebrates Arbor Day at different times of the year. Similar events to encourage the planting or care of trees are arranged in many countries around the world. The dates are usually chosen to coincide with the optimal season for planting or caring for native trees.
Arbor Day is symbolized by the trees that are planted on the day or as a result of fundraising activities. The official Arbor Day logo shows a mature deciduous tree and the words “celebrate Arbor Day.” The symbol of the Arbor Day Foundation is a similar tree in a circle, symbolizing the importance of trees to the whole planet. Local initiatives may use their state tree as a symbol.
Photos courtesy of New Port Richey Parks & Recreation Center, Mike Speidel