Unlike the rainy day two days before, when the street department laid out the trees and dug the holes, Arbor Day was bright and sunny – perfect weather for planting 20 trees in East Clayton Community Park.
On Mayor Jody McLeod’s count of “one, two, three,” he and several Clayton High School students threw of shovel of dirt onto the roots of one of the trees.
“Awesome,” McLeod told the students, who came from the school’s Environmental Club and an Advanced Placement class.
The mayor and the students finished planting the saplings – red sunset maple, scarlet oak, sun valley maple, October glory maple and sawtooth oak – to commemorate Arbor Day. Two days before, a town street crew had laid the trees out, roots still bound in cloth and rope, and dug the holes.
The trees stand on the far end of the park on Glen Laurel Road and will soon grow to provide shade to park goers.
Stacy Beard is the town’s public information officer. “We chose this location because we know it will not only provide a beautiful first view for drivers approaching the park from N.C. 42, but it will help provide much-needed shade for families and spectators as they gather around the huge multipurpose field in that area of the park,” she said.
McLeod read a proclamation naming March 21 Arbor Day in Clayton and citing the many benefits of trees.
“Trees are renewable resources that yield fruit and nuts for food and profit, wood for construction, fuel for warmth, paper products and a variety of other goods and materials,” McLeod said. Also, “trees intercept storm water, reduce runoff and erosion, clean air and water, produce oxygen, slow climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide, provide habitat for wildlife, moderate air temperature and are a source of joy and spiritual renewal,” he said.
For the ninth year in a row, the Arbor Day Foundation has named Clayton a Tree City, one of 78 in North Carolina and 3,330 nationwide. Requirements for the honor include an Arbor Day tree planting, a community forestry program with an annual budget of at least $2 per capita, a tree -care ordinance and a tree board.
“We’re proud to be a Tree City,” McLeod said. “Preserving and enhancing the beauty we enjoy here in Clayton is something we’ve felt strongly about for a long time.”
The first Arbor Day took place in 1872, after J. Sterling Morton asked the Nebraska Board of Agriculture to set aside a special day for tree planting. Nebraskans planted an estimated 1 million trees that day.
“Arbor Day reminds us of the timeless observation by its founder, J. Sterling Morton, that each generation takes the earth as trustees,” McLeod said. “We encourage all citizens to plant trees to promote the well being of this and future generations, because a healthy urban forest can bring a sense of vibrancy, respite or adventure, escape or contentment amidst the asphalt and concrete.”
Arbor Day falls on different days in 50 states, based on growing seasons. In North Carolina, it falls on the first Friday after March 15.