By R. Scott Belzer
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — For four days in early April, London and Laurel County will have the chance to celebrate the beauty of the region and take pride in its natural environment by serving as the kickoff point for Arbor Day 2014 in Kentucky.
Beginning April 7, the local community will go green with tree giveaways, seedling planting and reforestation, culminating in a formal ceremony at the London Wellness Park near the Somerset Community College-Laurel campus for Arbor Day on Thursday, April 10.
Approximately 5,000 native, hardwood tree seedlings will be donated to Laurel County residents to take home and plant at their own leisure. Available on a first come, first serve basis, trees will be available April 7-11 at the London Farmer’s Market, the Dixie Street Fire Station and the East Bernstadt Fire Station. All locations will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The Division of Forestry will also visit the East Bernstadt Elementary School on April 8 for an Arbor Day program directed at students. The session is expected to include activities, the history of the holiday, as well as what the day means to local communities.
Arbor Day ceremonies will begin at 10 a.m. on Thursday at the London Wellness Park and will feature Mayor Troy Rudder’s public address followed by brief words from state foresters and other Arbor Day officials. Rudder will then accept London’s third consecutive “Tree City USA” award before the planting of a ceremonial tree at the Wellness Park.
Communities like London receive “Tree City USA” status by meeting various standards pertaining to sound urban forestry management – maintaining a tree board or department, having a community tree ordinance, spending at least $2 per capita on urban forestry, and celebrating Arbor Day annually. Over 135 million people live in a “Tree City USA,” although few are aware.
After the tree is planted, a shuttle is set to take participants and volunteers to the Whitley Branch Wetland Restoration Project on Ky. 229 where approximately 200 seedlings – including Northern Red Oak, White Oak, Swamp White Oak, Persimmon, and Eastern Redbud – will be planted. Shovels will be provided but it is suggested that people bring a sturdy pair of boots.
The seedlings selected to be given away were chosen due to their Kentucky nativity and symbolism. The Eastern Redbud is one of these trees, known mostly for its bright pink leaves. The Northern Red Oak is another native tree that can reach heights up to 90 feet. While it needs plenty of room to grow, it will make a fine addition to London’s scenery. The medium-sized Persimmon will also be given away in its seedling form, known for its pale orange fruit that ripens in October. The Swamp White Oak seedling will also be available; it is known to be versatile as it requires low amounts of oxygen. The White Oak, which can grow to heights up to 100 feet, will also be given away as a seedling.
The tree planting initiative is a partnership between the Arbor Day Foundation and state forestry agencies, providing communities affected by severe storms with tree seedlings to help them restore forests and trees.
For more information on the upcoming event in April, contact Peter Barber at the Urban Forestry Service via email@example.com.