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Tall titans: Area celebrates Arbor Day
Northeast Georgia History Center Director Glen Kyle talks about the importance of trees in history Friday during an Arbor Day event at the center. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Community representatives gathered Friday morning to recognize trees at an Arbor Day celebration at the Northeast Georgia History Center.

Gainesville has a long history as a tree-friendly city, if the beautiful old trees lining Green Street are any indication. And as part of the Arbor Day festivities, Forest Ranger Phillip Anderson presented awards for the 2009 Champion Trees from Hall County.

Champion Trees are the largest known tree of a particular species in the county. For 2009, a northern red oak, weeping cherry and Japanese saucer magnolia were added to Hall County’s list of Champion Trees.

Acorns from Champion Trees, many of which come from the stately trees on Green Street, are part of the Grow Green For Green Street Program.

Kristen Howard, lead student of Chestatee High School’s Environment Club, gave an update on the school’s tree project at the ceremony.

The program, which was the brainchild of Keep Hall Beautiful President Rick Foote, aims to grow trees that are descended from the Green Street trees. As more of the old trees die and need to be cut down, the hope is that their offspring will be able to replace them.

Made possible in part by a tree replacement grant from Keep Hall Beautiful, students at the school built an outdoor classroom and a greenhouse to grow the saplings of the local Champion Trees.

"This is our future," Howard said. "We need to replenish it and keep it healthy."

Howard said she has enjoyed watching the trees grow over the last year.

"I can’t wait until they get bigger and taller than me," Howard said.

Celebrating trees is nothing new for Gainesville, though. The city has been a designated Tree City for more than 20 years.

In order to become a Tree City, a city must establish a tree board or department and a tree care ordinance as well as a community forestry program with an annual budget of at least $2 per capita.

The last requirement is to have an annual Arbor Day celebration and proclamation.

"Each year you have to recertify to be a Tree City," said Chief Ranger Senior Doug Andrews of the Georgia Forestry Commission.

Gainesville Mayor Ruth Bruner and Hall County Commissioner Ashley Bell presented a proclamation Friday officially designating the day as Arbor Day in Gainesville and Hall County.

Bruner also announced the city had received a grant to plant trees on the future Midtown Greenway.

Northeast Georgia History Center Director Glen Kyle said the event is an exciting one for the center to host.

"Trees are all over our history," Kyle said. "They’ve always been there, always watching. So it’s important on days like today to let them know we’re watching them, too."

The City of Jefferson also had an Arbor Day Celebration Friday at the Rev. V.S. Hughey Park on Gordon Street.

In honor of Arbor Day, several trees were planted at the park — including oak, elm and red maple trees.

"Planting these trees was possible because of a grant from the Georgia Forestry Commission specifically for adding shade to playgrounds," said Mary Dugan, Jefferson Heritage Tree Council chairwoman.

"We planted these trees here, so that (children) would have a nice, healthy and cool place to play."

Members of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Jackson County, who often frequent the park, helped to place mulch around the newly planted trees.

"These aren’t climbing trees, not yet, so just enjoy the shade for now," said Willie Hughey, Jefferson City Schools Board of Education member and son of the park’s namesake. "Take care of this park as you would your own front yard."

During the celebration, city officials also announced that the Jefferson Tree Council recently received a $50,000 grant from forestry commission to plant trees along the public right-of-ways in the city.

"The tree council has done a lot of work in the three years they’ve been in existence," Jefferson Mayor Jim Joiner said. "They have planted more than 100 trees, conducted several studies and made lasting improvements to the quality of life of all our citizens."

Times reporter Brandee A. Thomas contributed to this report.

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