The Town of Vinton celebrated Arbor Day 2022 on April 29 at the Vinton Branch Library with children and their teachers from the Thrasher Preschool.
Nathan McClung, Vinton’s Assistant Director of Planning and Zoning, welcomed everyone to the annual event, and introduced Councilwoman Laurie Mullins, who, in turn, introduced Mayor Brad Grose.
The mayor noted that Vinton has been named as a “Tree City USA” every year since 2003. To retain the Tree City USA designation, the town is required to hold an Arbor Day Celebration, along with tree plantings and tree education outreach each year.
Town staff has been responsible for securing Virginia Department of Forestry grant funding each year by partnering with Roanoke Valley Urban Forestry Council and the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission (RVARC) in submitting the grant request, with the town providing the required matching funds. These funds have enabled the town to plant trees on public properties, including the elementary schools in Vinton, Wolf Creek Greenway, M.A. Banks Park, on the grounds of Vinton Public Works, Vinton War Memorial, Vinton Municipal Building, Craig Avenue Recreation Center, and Glade Creek Greenway.
This year the trees are being planted in the median along Washington Avenue across from Lynn Haven Baptist Church, in the median along Hardy Road at the Vinyard Road intersections, and along Bypass Road in the median across from Lake Drive Church of Christ.
At its meeting on April 19, Town Council had issued a proclamation declaring April 29 as Arbor Day in Vinton, which stated in part:
“In 1872, J. Sterling Morton proposed to the Nebraska Board of Agriculture that a special day be set aside for the planting of trees; this holiday, called Arbor Day, was first observed with the planting of more than a million trees in Nebraska.
“Arbor Day is now observed throughout the nation and the world. Trees can reduce the erosion of our precious topsoil by wind and water, cut heating and cooling costs, moderate the temperature, clean the air, produce oxygen and provide habitat for wildlife. Trees are a renewable source giving us paper, wood for our homes, fuel for our fires and countless other wood products. Trees in our town increase property values, enhance the economic vitality of business areas, and beautify our community. Trees, wherever they are planted, are a source of joy and spiritual renewal.”
The mayor went on to thank the many who had contributed to this year’s Arbor Day celebration: the Virginia Department of Forestry, the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission, the Roanoke County-Vinton Branch Library staff, RVTV, Creative Nurseries and Landscapes, along with the Vinton Public Works and Planning and Zoning staffs.
Mayor Grose then led the children in his traditional Arbor Day “Cheer for Trees,” chanting “One, two, three, I love trees.”
The mayor then turned the program over to Denny McCarthy, Senior Area Forester, who talked to the children about the many hats he wears in his job. He protects the forest– serving as a doctor for sick trees and assisting with planting trees, thousands of trees each year. He described a recent planting of 6,000 trees on 14 acres in Bedford County.
He noted how important it is to reforest when trees are cut down. He and the children brainstormed the many uses of trees, their part in the oxygen cycle, the products trees produce for people, and the habitats they provide. He cautioned the students to be especially careful now because this is fire season.
McCarthy then introduced crowd favorite– Smokey Bear– and shared his life’s story. It seems the living symbol of Smokey Bear started with an American black bear caught in the wildfire of the Lincoln National Forest. In May 1950, two forest fires were started, with one being caused by a carelessly discarded cigarette butt and the other by sparks from a cookstove, that burned 17,000 acres in the Capitan Mountains of New Mexico. The bear climbed a tree to escape the blaze, burning his paws and hind legs. A game warden rescued him after the fire. Initially, the cub was called Hotfoot Teddy, but then was renamed Smokey Bear after the already existing National Forest Service mascot.
A local rancher who aided in the firefight took Smokey home, but he needed veterinary care and was cared for by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish Ranger Ray Bell, his wife and children.
National attention was brought to the story of the rescued cub and Smokey Bear was soon after taken to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., where he remained until his death on November 9, 1976. Smokey Bear was returned to Capitan, N.M., and buried at Smokey Bear Historical Park.
Children’s librarian Jennifer Whitcomb next read two books to the preschoolers about trees, led them in a dance about trees, and concluded the morning with a tree craft.