Jacksonville prepares for Arbor Day
by Paige Rentz
While much of the country will be in the midst of winter through February, local residents are gearing up to put shovels in the ground in celebration of Alabama’s Arbor Day next month.

“I wouldn’t want to live in a place that didn’t have trees,” said City Councilman Truman Norred, liaison to the city’s Tree Commission. “To me they just add a beauty and a softness to the community.”

The Jacksonville Tree Commission, in partnership with JSU and other local organizations, is getting ready for a month of events to promote tree planting, culminating in a tree giveaway on the Public Square on Feb. 22.

Most of the nation observes Arbor Day on the last Friday in April, but Alabama officially observes an Arbor Week at the end of February. The state legislature established the observance in 1975.

Safaa Al-Hamdani, a biology professor at Jacksonville State University, said that in Alabama, it is best to plant trees in late February or early March in order to give the tree’s roots time to grow and absorb some nutrients before the trees leave their dormant winter state and begin to bloom. Trees will generally begin to bud in late March, at which point it is best not to disturb them, he said.

With that in mind, several events have been planned to make that deadline:

• The commission got a head start on Arbor Day last Saturday with a community tree planting at Eastwood School.

“There’s a beautiful pine grove with a high canopy, but there’s no understory trees,” said Susan Di Biase, a member of the commission. “It’s already pretty with that high canopy, but it could be even prettier with some flowering trees.”

The Boy Scouts and JSU’s Earth Club will be helping with the work to plant the trees, Di Biase said.

“Part of what we’re doing there is really looking after the next generation of volunteers so they have the skills to plant trees and beautify trees,” she said.

• Jacksonville State University and the city of Jacksonville will join forces for the week of Feb. 11 to plant crape myrtles along the Ladiga Trail near the city’s Train Depot. The area serves as a transition between the city and university.

“It’s a way of beautifying that transition zone … that will allow the city and university to team up with their equipment and expertise for mutual benefit,” she said.

According to Di Biase, this project will be the first tree planting undertaken jointly by the university and city.

• The county’s Beautification Board is sponsoring a county tree give-away on Feb. 18 from 12:30-2:30 p.m. at the old Winn-Dixie shopping center at the corner of Greenbrier Dear and Coleman roads in Anniston. Jacksonville City Councilman Truman Norred, who also serves on the county’s Beautification Board, said the organization hopes to purchase cherry trees to give away since the event will be held on Presidents Day. Volunteers at the event will also give away any trees that might be donated by other organizations.

• Jacksonville State University will celebrate Arbor Day on Feb. 21 with a tree planting at the International House at 3:30 p.m. James Rayburn, a biology professor and advisor of the university’s Earth Club, said the university will plant a cherry tree to complement two others at the site and provide added greenery and shade during the summer. The Earth Club, which has only been active for about two years, he said, succeeded last year in getting JSU certified as a Tree Campus USA through the National Arbor Day Foundation and has been recertified this year. The city’s Tree Commission, a required component of Jacksonville’s designation as a Tree City USA, has been working closely with the university on this program, Di Biase said.

• Jacksonville’s Tree Commission is sponsoring a tree giveaway on the Public Square Feb. 22 from 3-5 p.m. Alabama Power is providing 2,250 trees for the commission to hand out to residents, including crape myrtles, dogwoods, American elms, Chickasaw plums, red maples, redbuds and fringe trees, said Scott Exum, business office manager in Jacksonville.

Because the utility company has to remove what Exum calls trouble trees to keep power lines free and electricity running, he said the company tries to replant an appropriate urban tree away from their lines – part of an awareness program the utility calls Plant the Right Tree in the Right Place.
© 2013