The Town of Vinton held its annual Arbor Day Celebration at the Charles R. Hill Senior Center on April 18.
Special guests were 34 children from the Thrasher Preschool at Thrasher Memorial United Methodist Church, just across Washington Avenue. Vinton police officers assisted them and their teachers in crossing the busy street by stopping traffic as they walked over to the Senior Center to take part in the celebration. The children performed a special tree song for the event about the parts of trees, with the lyrics “Head and shoulders, knees, and toes— no, trees don’t have those! They have roots, and trunks, and branches, and some leaves— those are the parts of trees!”
Smokey Bear was a special guest at the event again this year.
Guests were welcomed by Vinton Town Manager Barry Thompson, with remarks from Special Programs Director Mary Beth Layman and Denny McCarthy from the Virginia Department of Forestry.
McCarthy entertained the children with a fun fact that the seeds of the Virginia State Tree, the Dogwood, are a favorite food of the Virginia State Bird, the Cardinal.
Thompson told the guests that Arbor Day originated in Nebraska on April 10, 1872, with J. Sterling Morton, Secretary of Agriculture in President Grover Cleveland’s administration. When he moved from Michigan to Nebraska, Morton and other pioneers noticed a lack of trees. He proposed a holiday for tree planting in the state resulting in approximately 1 million trees being planted on the first Arbor Day. His purpose in planting the trees was to stabilize the soil and provide shade. Nowadays, every state and many foreign nations observe Arbor Day.
Thompson explained that the presence of trees leads to cleaner air, lower energy costs, improved water quality, stormwater control, and higher property values. He shared that forested watersheds provide quality drinking water for over 180 million Americans. Trees provide wildlife habitats. They lower surface and air temperatures reducing air conditioning needs.
He noted that the oak has been voted as America’s favorite tree. He closed his remarks with a Chinese proverb, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the next best time is now,” and a quote, “He who plants a tree, plants a hope.”
Public Works employees, led by Vinton arborist Jason Davison, planted a dogwood at the Senior Center and 10 maples along Walnut Avenue in celebration of the day.
Vinton Town Council issued a proclamation at its meeting on April 3, declaring April 18 to be Arbor Day in Vinton. The town has once again been designated as a Tree City USA. To qualify for this recognition, the town is required to hold an Arbor Day Celebration, along with tree plantings and tree education outreach on a yearly basis.
Town staff, led by Planning and Zoning Director Anita McMillan, has been responsible for securing Virginia Department of Forestry grant funding each year, including this year (that’s 18 years total), by partnering with the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission (RVARC) in submitting the grant request, with the town providing the required matching funds.
These grant funds have enabled the town to plant trees on public properties, including the elementary schools in Vinton, the Vinton History Museum, Wolf Creek Greenway, M.A. Banks Park, and on the grounds of Vinton Public Works, the Vinton War Memorial, the Vinton Municipal Building, and the Craig Avenue Recreation Center.