Sidney celebrates 30 years as Tree City U.S.A. at annual tree giveaway

Ninety trees handed out to community during celebration


Anthony Ruiz / The Sun-Telegraph

Tree expert Amy Seiler with the Nebraska Forest Service demonstrates how to plant a bare-root tree during Saturday's tree giveaway at the Lodgepole Valley Youth Camp in Sidney.

With Arbor Day just around the corner, the City of Sidney celebrated its 30th straight year as a Tree City U.S.A. community last Saturday with its annual tree giveaway at the Lodgepole Valley Youth Camp at Legion Park.

Ninety trees were given away to Sidney residents during the event, including 30 pine trees special to the 30th anniversary.

"We usually don't (have pine tress)," Tree Board Chairman Tom Von Seggern said. "It's typically all deciduous trees, but to recognize the 30th year, we are doing pines."

Pine breeds given away during the event included Bosnian, Swiss Stone and Austrian varieties.

For a city to be recognized as a Tree City USA community by the National Arbor Day Foundation, it needs to meet specific criteria such as establish a tree board, have ordinances for tree care and safety, spend a budget of $2 per capita for tree planting and care and offer a proclamation endorsed by the council recognizing Arbor Day.

"We're really excited," Von Seggern said regarding the 30th anniversary of the designation. "It's a commitment to tree care and tree safety around the community."

Von Seggern said the tree giveaway helps to diversify Sidney's tree canopy by introducing new trees that might not typically be found locally in the area.

"But will still do well in Western Nebraska," he said. "There's a core group that we have every year, and then we try to add maybe one or two new species that we've heard can work in the Sidney region."

Types of trees given away at the celebration included bur oak, Canada red select cherry, Kentucky coffee tree, May Day tree, Newport plum, profusion crabapple, prarie expedition and American Elm.

Prior to the event, residents signed up on a first-come, first-served basis for a free tree. Von Seggern said the giveaway was not limited to one per family.

"If you come out with a family of four, you're going to get four trees," he said. "Within reason, of course. If we had 100 people out here, and you have six kids, we'd probably have to tone that down so everybody gets one to take home. People are pretty understanding about that."

The celebration began indoors with Von Seggern welcoming the near-100 people who turned out for the tree giveaway. He then recognized the tree board and other volunteers, and presented Sidney City Counselor Wendall Gaston a flag and award recognizing the city's 30th anniversary as a Tree City U.S.A. community.

The presentation was followed with the tree board honoring Dr. C.J. Cornelius, M.D. with the Community Spirit Award for his participation in the tree giveaway for the past 30 years, and for donating the trees to Sloan Estates and other assisted living facilities.

Jay Ehler, superintendent for Sidney Public Schools, was then presented with a swamp white oak tree. Von Seggern said the tree was donated to the city by the Arbor Day Foundation, funded through a grant from the Nebraska Forestry Council, to present to a local school during this year's awards ceremony.

"We'll plant it somewhere where everybody can enjoy and it can get a lot of community traffic," Ehler said.

Von Seggern followed by presenting Amy Seiler with the Nebraska Forest Service to talk about Arbor Day and general information on the trees that would be part of this year's giveaway.

Seiler then led attendees outdoors for a live tree planting demonstration. Seiler demonstrated with a Canada red select cherry tree, and went over planting, watering and other topics relating to tree care. She also demonstrated how to properly plant the pine trees, which were potted rather than bare root.

After the demonstration, attendees returned to the front of the camp for the actual tree giveaway. Scouts with Troop 90 and Pack 90 in Sidney helped carry the trees to vehicles.

Arbor Day is a special date recognized in Nebraska and other states where individual, groups and communities across the country are encouraged to plant and care for trees. Its beginning trace back to 1872 when J. Sterling Morton proposed to the Nebraska Board of Agriculture that a day be set aside for the planting of trees, and was first observed that same year with the planting of more than a million trees across the state.

In Nebraska, Arbor Day is generally observed on the last Friday of April, which this year is April 29.

Anthony Ruiz / The Sun-Telegraph

Tree Board Chairman Tom Von Seggern and Sidney City Councilor Wendall Gaston display the flag from the Arbor Day Foundation recognizing Sidney for its 30th straight year as a Tree City U.S.A. community.


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