MARIETTA - "Nature has many marvels; but a tree seems more than marvelous. It is divine."
Those words from a poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox encouraging the simple planting of a tree rang true throughout the hearts of about a dozen people gathered beside the Front Street armory in Marietta on Friday to intern a white swamp oak in the ground.
Planting that tree was part of the city's celebration of Arbor Day, and put an exclamation point on the city's recognition for its 34th year as a Tree City USA by the National Arbor Day Foundation. Marietta is one of the longest tenured Tree City USA honorees in the country, and is believed to be the oldest "tree city" in Ohio.
Julia Paugstat, a member of the city tree commission, helps 10-month old Aydriana Schwendeman sprinkle dirt on a swamp oak tree that was planted beside the former National Guard Armory in Marietta on Friday afternoon as part of the city’s Arbor Day celebration. (Photo by Kevin Pierson)
"The trees add a great dimension of comfort and beauty," said Julia Paugstat, a member of the city tree commission. "We're really a rural city. We're not a metropolis. We don't want to be. We want the convenience of a city with a hometown feel."
Due to the city's commitment to its forest, Marietta Mayor Joe Matthews and the city received the 34th recognition of the city as a Tree City USA recently in Logan. The National Arbor Day Foundation first began issuing the awards in 1976, with Marietta receiving its first award in 1978, Paugstat said.
All told, Marietta has more than 6,000 trees on city-owned property, with thousands more on privately owned parcels.
"It's almost like you're going into a grove, some of these streets," Matthews said. "Marietta is just a gorgeous town."
To maintain the trees, members of the tree commission spend time each year pruning them, watering them during drought, planting new trees and removing leaves in the autumn. All of those count toward the per capita value required to be considered as a Tree City USA.
"I just applaud the tree commission because they do a fantastic job," Matthews praised.
That work earned Marietta what has become an annual recognition, and the city may be the host for its own award in 2014.
"We have offered to host Tree City USA awards for next year, and the awards will be for 2013," Paugstat said.