Gainesville and Hall County officials grabbed shovels Friday morning to plant a tree for Georgia's Arbor Day.
The Hearts of Gold redbud will sit in front of the city's new public safety building on Queen City Parkway to remind residents to make trees a priority.
"I love to do what I can in the community, and every year I think it's important to help," said Kellie Bowen of Full Bloom Nursery, who donated the tree.
"With today's program in the new building, I thought it would be fitting to dedicate the tree to the new building as well."
Gainesville City Councilwoman Myrtle Figueras and Hall County Commissioner Billy Powell read a joint proclamation to celebrate the 24th Arbor Day in Gainesville.
"Each year the county and city declare that trees are important," Figueras said. "If we all plant one tree, it will make the environment better for all of us."
Keep Hall Beautiful awarded Tree Replacement Fund grants to several Hall County schools, and the Georgia Forestry Commission recognized Gainesville as a Tree City for the 20th year.
"The first year I started on the city council, which is going on 24 years now, we adopted the tree ordinance," Councilman George Wangemann said. "We're a city that cares what it looks like, and I think we're starting to place developments around tress instead of putting trees around developments, which preserves natural beauty."
J. Sterling Morton, the creator of Arbor Day, initiated the national holiday in Nebraska in 1872, which falls on the third Friday in April. In 1941, the Georgia General Assembly set the state's celebration as the third Friday in February because the weather is too warm in April to plant trees in Georgia.
In 2010, Gainesville received a grant from the Georgia Forestry Commission to start the Gainesville Certified Arborist Program, which offered a certification program to 30 participants hailing from Canton to Monroe.
"Now we have seven city employees who are arborists in various departments," said Jessica Tullar, the city's special projects manager. "They can help property owners who have concerns about a tree, whether it's identifying disease or offering advice on how to prune."
Officials also recognized students who participated in a third-grade art contest that focused on trees as a renewable resource and a fifth-grade essay contest that asked what role trees should play in meeting the country's energy needs.
"When you talk about renewable resources, trees are at the top of list," said Gene Anderson, Hall County Extension Office coordinator. "But young people are the most important, so why not combine those two?"
Chalet Watkins, a fifth-grader at Friendship Elementary School, read her first-place essay, which emphasized electricity, gas and shade as energy-related resources that come from trees.
"I did some research and asked family friends who specialize in electricity for ideas to use in my essay," she said. "Trees are very useful, and there's a lot we wouldn't have if we didn't have trees."
Georgia Power Co. officials passed out tree seedlings to officials and students who attended the program.
"Some people may think that with the Playstations and all that, kids don't play outside as much as we did," said Darrell Snyder, chairman of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce. "It's great to see these kids embrace this and get out to enjoy nature."