Hurricanes bring new purpose to Arbor Day
Published: Saturday, January 22, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 21, 2005 at 10:46 p.m.
The three gold-painted shovels leaned against a tree in Westside Park on Friday morning waiting to be used in Gainesville's annual Arbor Day ceremony.
But Lisa Alday said her 3-year-old daughter, Leslie, thought they were meant as gifts for a king, queen and princess.
Leslie, her sister Jessie, 1, and Alday go to the park almost every Friday, and this day they became part of the nearly 50-person audience in attendance at the annual celebration meant to honor trees as an essential part of the community.
Gainesville's City Beautification Board arranged to have trees planted at the park, two trees for each of the 21 years Gainesville has earned the title of Tree City USA, a designation given by the National Arbor Day Foundation.
"Our goal this year was to plant a diversification of species," said Anita Spring, chairwoman of the beautification board. A variety of oaks, elms and other hardwood trees were planted by the city's tree crew throughout the month of January.
This years' Arbor Day ceremony held special significance because of the destructive hurricane season in 2004.
"The vast majority of the trees stood and protected us," said Meg Niederhofer, the city's arborist.
The ceremony's guest speaker, UF botany professor Francis "Jack" Putz, discussed how during storms trees absorb wind force and work as physical barriers against debris.
He stressed the importance of removing trees that are damaged or dangerous and planting healthy trees in their place.
Other than guest speakers, the ceremony featured a proclamation presented by City Commissioner Tony Domenech and food catered by the Hungry Rams, a group of students from the culinary program at Eastside High School.
In exchange for the catering, the city donated three palm trees to the school and will handle the planting.
"This gets a community to look at its trees and think about the important resource they are," Niederhofer said.
One of the requirements to earn the title of Tree City USA is that a city must spend at least $2 per resident each year on tree maintenance - and Gainesville spends closer to $6, Niederhofer said.
After the speakers finished, Alday and her daughters were almost first in line to use the golden shovels and plant the last of the 42 new trees planted in the park.
Leslie and Jessie soon abandoned the shovels, preferring to use their hands to pack the dirt in around the young tree.
"That's the kind of thing I like my tax money to pay for," Alday said with a smile as she looked at the freshly planted trees.
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