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A local Girl Scout Troop is planting its way to success using native trees, butterfly gardens
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Georgia celebrates Arbor Day on the third Friday of February. To celebrate this year, Gainesville Girl Scout Troop 10878 decided to plant a native redbud tree. Kneeling left to right: Emma Baker, Kaylee Peck, and Evelyn Crow. Standing left to right: Mary Griffin, Steven Emery, Rachael Seid, Rebekah Halstead, Mary Eloise Tymchuk, Madilyn Dye, and Mandy Baker. Photo courtesy Nita Baker.

The South has always been a bit different, even when it comes to Arbor Day — in Georgia, the day falls on a different day than the rest of the country.

National Arbor Day is observed at the end of April for most of the nation, but Georgia celebrates it on the third Friday of February. To celebrate this year, Gainesville Girl Scout Troop 10878 decided to plant a native redbud tree.

On Feb. 15, the troop put their shovels together and broke ground at the entrance of Don Carter State Park. 

“We decided we would try to plant the tree close to Arbor day so it could be a celebration of Arbor Day since it’s about saving trees, planting trees and reforesting the places that have been overused,” Troop Leader Nita Baker said. 

Baker has been the leader of Troop 10878 for eight years, since her granddaughters, Mandy and Emma Baker, joined Girl Scouts.

Don Carter State Park only plants trees that are native to the area, so after the girls did research, they found that the redbud was the perfect fit. 

The tree was donated to the girls by Josh Everett, vice president of business development at New Leaf Landscape Services. 

“We love to participate in things like that and help the community and this obviously helped the girls fulfill that part of their duty there,” Everett said. 

One troop mother, Robin Halstead, helped with the project. Halstead is the mother of six-year troop member, Rebekah Halstead, and the vice president of community development for the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce. 

Part of Halstead’s job is to organize Arbor Day for the city and county every year. 

“The reason why Georgia does Arbor Day in February is because of our climate. It’s better for Georgia to plant a tree in February versus national Arbor Day at the end of April. It’s better for the trees to take root and everything this time of year,” Halstead said. 

This tree planting is just the beginning of bigger plans the troop has. 

The girls are currently working on obtaining the Girl Scout Silver Award. 

“Girl Scouts can get three awards — the bronze, the silver and the gold. This is the one that girls in middle school can earn. They have to put in 50 hours of work; it has to be something that benefits the community, has an educational component and shows their ability to make decisions on their own,” Baker said. 

The troop has plans to plant an entire butterfly garden at the Don Carter State Park entrance. 

The girls are doing soil samples and completing research on what type of plants will be planted in spring alongside the master gardeners, according to Halstead. 

“They really do all of the planning and all of the work, I'm just there to supervise,” Baker said.