The campus surrounding Mt. Olive Early Childhood Center increased its leafiness last week when a young autumn blaze maple tree was planted on its northeast corner May 8. Local landscaper Tom Hammer selected the two-year old tree and put shovel to the ground, planting it as a Tree City USA Arbor Day celebration.
Of course, the task couldn’t be completed without the help of three dozen or so miniature tree planters – students in the early childhood center’s preschool program.
Imagining the tree towering above them, its brilliant orange leaves waving in the sunshine, the children shouted with glee.
“I’m going to climb all the way up to the top.”
“I’m going to jump in the pile of leaves.”
“Birds can build a nest in there – squirrels, too.”
As the children lined up to finish packing dirt around the newly-planted tree, Hammer quizzed the kids about what a tree needs: soil, fertilizer, water, and sunshine – and asked them what they’d like to name the tree.
After agreeing that Blaze would be the perfect name for the newly-planted autumn blaze maple, the kids helped shovel soil around its trunk and then emptied a big bucket of water around its base.
The tree planting event at Mt. Olive was the 34th one conducted since the city of Anoka received its designation as Tree City USA back in 1981.
“We’ve been a Tree City 33 consecutive years and we’ve been planting trees at schools every year,” said Mark Anderson, Anoka’s superintendent of public works, as he supervised the Mt. Olive tree plant.
Also in attendance to witness the planting were Anoka City Councilmember Jeff Weaver and Anoka City Manager Tim Cruikshank.
During the past three decades, trees have been planted on school campuses throughout Anoka, Anderson said.
“We’ve planted lots of trees – the schools are running out of real estate to put trees now,” he said.
And lessons have been learned along the way. With each tree planted, children are taught about the importance and value of trees to the environment and to the community.
Hammer is happy to teach those lessons.
“This is what we need. We need the little kids to learn so that they take care of trees, plant more trees, learn how trees live and grow and give so much to us,” he said.
Lessons about trees continue this summer for children attending Terrific Trees, a week-long summer camp program at Mt. Olive Early Childhood Center.
For more information about Terrific Trees contact School Director Linda Stroming at 763-421-9048, x109 or [email protected].
But there’s more to becoming a Tree City USA community than just planting trees in school yards.
Tree City USA status is achieved when communities meet four core standards of 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.
As Anderson said, those standards have been met in Anoka for the past 33 years.
“We’re proud to be a Tree City. It takes a lot of work, a lot of attention and activity and we’re happy to do it,” he said.
To learn more about Tree City USA visit arborday.org and click on “Tree City USA.”
Sue Austreng is at [email protected]