Williamstown marks Arbor Day

WILLIAMSTOWN – Williamstown Elementary School fifth-graders helped the city celebrate National Arbor Day after the threat of rain moved the program into city council chambers.

“We are happy to have you all here today,” City Councilwoman Barbara Lewis told the nearly 100 students, teachers and chaperones who filled the small gathering room.

The children enjoyed cookies and punch before the program began and, unfortunately were unable to help plant this year’s Arbor Day tree because of the day’s weather.

“Our city maintenance crew did a great job of planting the tree this year,” Lewis said.

The new tree is in Tomlinson Park, near the entrance, according to Councilman Ron Erb.

Lewis’ program with the students allowed them to answer questions about trees and to learn their importance in the ecosystem.

“There are a lot of really good reasons for us to take care of our trees,” she said.

Those reasons include they provide noise reduction, reduce top soil erosion, moderate temperatures, clean air and provide a habitat for wildlife.

“In one year, one acre of trees will produce enough oxygen for 18 people, which is really amazing,” Lewis told the crowd.

Mayor Jean Ford read a proclamation naming Friday as Williamstown’s Arbor Day, in accordance to the National Arbor Day standards.

“Wherever trees are, they are a source of joy, a spiritual renewal,” Ford said.

Williamstown being named a Tree City USA for the 30th year was part of the celebration.

“Williamstown is not a very big town, but we love our trees,” Lewis said. “Being the longest-running Tree City USA in West Virginia is a big deal and a lot of work.”

The city must meet the requirements for the National Arbor Day Foundation to keep the title as well as planting a tree in observance of the day each year.

Because of the rain, this year’s tree was planted prior to the celebration by city employees.

The four standards to qualify as a Tree City USA: an ordinance describing the care of trees on public property; a tree board dedicated to overseeing tree care; the city must spend at least $2 per capita on tree care for trees on public property; and scheduling an Arbor Day observance in the city each year.

Following the program, Andy Sheetz with the West Virginia Division of Forestry handed out more than 60 small blue spruce trees to each student to plant at home. The trees were sent by the National Arbor Day Foundation, Lewis said.