Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
Saturday was a good day for trees in the city of Washington.
The Washington Tree Committee marked the city’s Arbor Day with a record-breaking tree giveaway and planting several trees at Lincoln Elementary School with the help of the Green Acres 4-H Club.
“Our annual tree giveaway usually takes about a half an hour, but we had 173 trees this year,” Washington Tree Committee Chair Marde McConnell said. “It took about an hour to give away all of them.”
Vehicles started lining up at 7 a.m. at the Washington County Fairgrounds for the giveaway. By the time the giveaway began at 8 a.m., the line of vehicles stretched around the fairgrounds and back to the highway.
McConnell said that 173 trees were the most they have ever given away for their annual event.
“We’re trying to support all homeowners and especially those who lost trees due to the emerald ash borer or the derecho,” McConnell said.
The tree giveaway was made possible by a Washington Iowa Betterment Foundation grant.
Following the giveaway, the committee members moved to Lincoln Elementary School, where Mayor Jaron Rosien read a proclamation naming May 15, 2021, as Arbor Day in the city of Washington.
They were joined at the ceremony by members of the Green Acres 4-H Club.
“One of the requirements to be a Tree City USA is that you have to have an event that includes youth,” McConnell said. “This fits the bill.”
Before the 4-H’ers began planting trees with the help of committee members, McConnell handed out tree planting and care guides to them.
She asked the 4-H’ers to name off some of the reasons to plant trees. Answers included producing oxygen, growing food, flood control, soil protection, lumber and to make an area look better.
“Cedar Rapids lost 70 percent of their trees in the derecho,” McConnell said. “It makes a massive difference in how it looks and how people feel about things.”
She explained how to go about planting a tree.
“When you’re going to plant a tree, you have to look at the site and ask, ‘What are my goals? What do I want? Do I want a tree that is upright or a tree that is spreading? Do I want a tree that’s full of color?’” she said, adding that is important to call Iowa One Call before digging a hole for the tree.
“The first thing you do is call One Call so you don’t plant it where you shouldn’t plant it,” she said.
McConnell discussed the importance of mulching a newly planted tree, explaining that it helps keep the soil moist and protect the tree from lawn mowers and insects.
“The key is to make a doughnut around the tree with the mulch — no volcanoes,” she said.
Rosien told the 4-H’ers that their effort planting trees that day will have an impact in the future.
“This is a special moment I hope you’ll remember for the rest of your lives,” Rosien said. “You might very well be your parents’ age talking to your own children and say, ‘I planted those trees.’
“A tree is a special way to memorialize and beautify. We have this blank slate in front of Lincoln. As you do the work that you do today, it’ll make a difference for a long time to come.”