Treasuring trees: Arbor Day recognition educates next generation

by Christopher Kratzer
Air University Public Affairs

3/4/2011 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Thursday marked National Arbor Day and Maxwell's 18th consecutive annual designation as a Tree City USA.

The Tree City USA designation is awarded by the Arbor Day Foundation in cooperation with the USDA Forest Service. It denotes cities that have made a commitment to urban forestry by having a tree board, a community tree ordinance, a community forestry program with a budget of $2 per person, and an Arbor Day observance or proclamation.

The base was also awarded the Tree City USA Growth Award for increased commitment to its urban forestry program.

During the ceremony held at the Gunter Child Development Center, the center's children were present at the ceremony that included the reading of an Arbor Day proclamation from the 42nd Air Base Wing, a presentation of the Tree City USA award to Vice Commander Col. Christopher Sharpe, a parade and the planting of new trees around the center.

The children participated in Arbor Day events all week. Children toured the base greenhouse, learned Arbor Day songs that were performed at the ceremony and practiced for the parade.

It is very important to educate our children about Arbor Day and the environment, said Beth Osgood, the environmental specialist who coordinated the event with the CDC.

"If they grow up with the attitude of, 'We need to take care of our resources,' then they'll be able to continue that as adults," Osgood said. "It's good to instill that in them early."

Matthew McCollough, the Alabama Forestry Commission's Urban Forestry coordinator, agreed that educating children about Arbor Day was critical.

"If we don't teach our future generations to plant and respect trees, in the future, we may not have a sustainable urban forest," Mr. McCollough said.

Mr. McCollugh, who presented the Tree City awards, thanked Colonel Sharpe for the base's dedication to its urban forest. Colonel Sharpe said the base was proud to receive the award and would maintain its commitment to be a Tree City USA.

Mr. McCollugh went on to detail how trees impact people in more ways than one might think.

"Trees are not only important for the air that we breathe or the shade we enjoy, but they also act as noise barriers and clean the water that goes into our rivers, which eventually lead to our wildlife," Mr. McCollough said. "Trees play a major factor in all living things."

Receiving this award 18 consecutive years means a lot, not only to the children, but to all base personnel.

"[Maintaining Tree City USA status] shows the Air Force's commitment to maintaining and caring for the trees on the installation," Ms. Osgood said.

Maxwell Air Force Base works hard to maintain its urban forest, according to Ms. Osgood.

"Maxwell Air Force Base has a beautiful tree canopy that complements the historic Senior Officers Quarters housing area, and we strive to plant and maintain trees throughout both the Maxwell and Gunter properties," Ms. Osgood said. "Many new trees have recently been planted within the Gunter housing areas, which will greatly enhance the area in the future."

The Maxwell greenhouse plays an important role in the maintaining of the urban forest. Trees are raised and maintained there for future planting on base. Last Tuesday, the children toured the greenhouse and planted longleaf pine seedlings that will eventually be used on base.

Ms. Osgood hopes that achieving these awards will impact not only the environment but the Maxwell-Gunter community.

"Achieving and maintaining Tree City USA status represents the value we place on trees. Our Tree City USA recognition and our Arbor Day celebrations can raise community awareness of the importance of trees. Trees are valuable not only for their aesthetic value, but also for economic, ecological and psychological value."