Southgate held its annual Arbor Day celebration Friday at Southgate Community Center, which overlooks a forest and a lake.
For 18 years, the Arbor Day Foundation has designated Southgate as a Tree City USA. Eligibility includes having a tree board and an annual Arbor Day proclamation.
The hour-long program featured a dedication to former Park and Tree Board member Juanita Bittner, and a talk from Luke Saunier, a forest ranger of the Kentucky Division of Forestry.
Bittner served on the board for years. In her memory, the city planted a redbud tree. Bittner’s husband, Howard, accepted a certificate in her honor and joked it was supposed to rain today, but Juanita stopped the rain.
Every year, third, fourth, and fifth graders participate in a poster contest. The third graders were absent, but most of the fourth-grade class were in attendance. This year, third and fourth graders drew pictures based on the theme “For the Love of Trees.” Students received awards for first, second, third place, and honorable mentions. Fourth grader Iris Turner accepted first place and received a wooden plaque.
After the awards ceremony, Saunier gave a talk called Trees Are Alive. He discussed the importance of trees and how Kentucky—unlike most states—has 12.4 million acres of forest, which amounts to 48 percent of the state that’s forested.
“That is a huge number, guys,” he said. “So that’s why 8.5 billion of our economy comes through tourism, because people love our forest and trees.”
He also stated how young trees absorb seven times more carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere than old trees.
To make things fun for the students, Saunier had a few kids stand in front of the audience and dress up as trees and insects to demonstrate how trees interact with their environment. At the end of the talk, only a few students said they’d be interested in becoming a forest ranger when they grow up, and several said they saw trees “0.001 percent differently.” In touching these young people’s lives, Saunier made a difference.
“My job is done,” he said.
As part of the celebration, the city gave away 100 loblolly pine seedlings. The trees can grow as tall as 70 to 100 feet.