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Boys & Girls Club youngsters plant trees with Durango Parks and Recreation

Arbor Day is about planting memories of the past while preparing for the future
The Boys & Girls Club of La Plata County joined Durango Parks and Recreation at Santa Rita Park on Friday for a morning of tree planting in recognition of Arbor Day. (Christian Burney/Durango Herald)

Arbor Day always falls on the last Friday of April, but the city of Durango got a week’s head start in recognizing the holiday on Friday.

Durango Parks and Recreation posted up at Santa Rita Park to give youngsters the chance to get their hands dirty planting nine new trees.

City Arborist Matt Besecker was joined by Assistant Parks Director Scott McClain and Colorado State Forest Service Lead Forester Ryan Cox to educate kids about the origins of Arbor Day and the importance of planting trees.

The first round of kids arrived at Santa Rita Park around 10 a.m. They were kindergartners with the Boys & Girls Club of La Plata County and were eager to dig into the soil with shovels and their hands.

Besecker said 1 million trees were planted on April 10, 1872, the first ever Arbor Day after the holiday was founded by J. Sterling Morton.

He said, “Who wants to go plant some trees?” and was met with a chorus of cheers from the kids, who would shortly jump to their feet and follow Besecker across the park to the planting site.

Besecker had gathered two Austrian pines, three hawthorn trees, a honeylocust, Kentucky coffee tree, bur oak and a linden tree for planting on Friday.

He could not stop long to talk because the 26 children participating in the first plantings of the day were energetically shoveling away at the dirt, and safety and supervision were the first priorities.

One girl broke from digging, grasped her shovel with both hands and raised it over her head triumphantly and said, “I’m working like a dog.”

City Arborist Matt Besecker, left, watched as a Boys & Girls Club girl triumphantly raised her shovel above her head and said, “I’m working like a dog” on Friday at Santa Rita Park. Durango Parks and Recreation invited kids to plant trees in recognition of Arbor Day. (Christian Burney/Durango Herald)

The city of Durango used to hold Arbor Day presentations at Durango Community Recreation Center. Seedlings would be passed out to attendees, but there wasn’t any actual planting going on at the event. Besecker said Arbor Day activities have shifted to the outdoors.

“I wanted to get the kids to be able to come out and plant because that’s what you should be doing on Arbor Day,” he said.

Cox, with the state Forest Service, said Durango is among the oldest Tree City USA cities in Colorado and has sustained its Tree City USA status for 44 years. The city currently manages between 11,000 and 12,000 trees within city limits.

“It’s a big effort. We’re lucky to have them,” he said. “You’ve seen the old pictures of Durango, I’m sure, where there’s nothing on the street. I’m sure we’ve had some hot summers. It’s nice to have that canopy. It can lower cooling costs and things like that and just make people want to sit outside.”

Looking out to the kiddos from across the field, he said he hopes the kids remember the trees they planted on Friday decades from now when they and the trees are all grown up.

Boys & Girls Club program assistants Kea Cavaliero and Kegan D’Aleo expressed similar thoughts.

“Something like this builds memories not just for now but when the trees are as big as those ones over there and they can come play soccer in the field and understand that is something they contributed to in the larger community,” Cavaliero said.

Durango City Arborist Matt Besecker gives Arthur Ehrig, 10, a free Meyer seedling spruce tree in April 2017 during the Parks and Recreation Department’s celebration of Arbor Day. On Friday, Besecker helped youngsters plant trees at Santa Rita Park. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

D’Aleo said planting the trees is something the kids can reminisce about when the trees reach 20 feet or 30 feet high and are “huge.”

“It could be 60 years from now. It’s going to be a pretty amazing thing that they can tell their kids about someday,” he added.

He said he grew up in the Boys & Girls Club and now that he’s finished college he’s returned to help out the kids. They get to do fun and meaningful stuff all day such as planting trees.

“I’ve just worked with kids for a long time, both internationally and nationally. Just wanted to be a part of their cute little lives and see how they grow up and help make it into a better community than it has been before. This is where we start, right?” Cavaliero said.

Morton, the founder of Arbor Day is known for his quote, “Other holidays repose upon the past; Arbor Day proposes for the future.”

Cox said the quote sums up Arbor Day pretty well.

“All the other holidays are kind of celebrating the past and this is one where we’re saying, ‘We’re building the future’ in the sense of urban forestry. I think that’s cool,” he said.

Other groups of kids were scheduled to arrive at the park throughout the afternoon to help Besecker plant the remaining trees.


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