Shade Tree Commission holds Tree City USA ceremony

The City of St. Marys Shade Tree Commission began Arbor Day celebrations on Friday with a Tree City USA ceremony on Depot Street in downtown St. Marys. Fifth grade students from South St. Marys Street Elementary School and their teachers were joined on the cold, blustery morning by members of the Shade Tree Commission, City Manager Dave Greene and City Community and Economic Development Coordinator Tina Gradizzi as a Fort McNair Horsechestnut tree was planted in honor of fifth graders who had planted seedlings donated by the Shade Tree Commission in 2011. Annually, the commission plants a tree in honor of students who have helped enhance the environment by planting seedlings the previous year. Toby Herzing of the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) presented the Tree City USA plaque to guest speaker Dennis Posteraro, retired educator and recently retired city parks director. Posteraro talked about trees and asked the students why trees are important. The students were very eager to answer and talked about how trees help the environment and provide shade and beauty. Posteraro explained the origin of Arbor Day, telling students how it is credited to J. Sterling Morton, when in 1872 the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture adopted his resolution to set aside a special day for tree planting. More than one million trees were planted in Nebraska on the first Arbor Day, and now it is a nationwide event. He said an app, "Tree ID," is available for smartphones to help people identify different types of trees. Posteraro told students it would be great for them to text, instant message or Facebook friends and family with messages such as "I love trees!" and "Trees rock!" He told them how he was a Three Stooges fan and asked the students, if, in the words of Stooge Curly, they would tell everyone how great trees are and spread the word. The students' response? "Sooyt-en-ly!" (Certainly) The commission takes turns honoring students from South St. Marys Street and St. Marys Catholic elementary schools. Next week, Shade Tree Commission members will visit both schools and fifth grade students will receive their seedlings to plant.