City employees mingled with members of the Ceres Garden Club Wednesday for a low-key celebration of Arbor Day at Whitmore Park.
The city broke with the tradition of hosting the 24th annual celebration of trees at school sites to plant three red maples in the downtown park. It marked the 24th time the title of Tree City USA was bestowed on Ceres by the Arbor Day Foundation.
Cambria Pollinger, the city of Ceres Recreation supervisor, explained how the city is planning to build a small-scale nature-based children's play area in Whitmore Park using all natural materials.
"We also want to work with the schools and community members to do a community garden," said Pollinger.
This fall, the city wants to offer local kids on a nature and survival skills program at the lower terrace of Ceres River Bluff Regional Park.
Ceres Mayor Chris Vierra read a proclamation declaring May 24 as Arbor Day in Ceres, and highlighting how trees add significantly to a community, in terms of public wellness and a reduction in cooling costs.
Ceres Garden Club Vice President Ted Hawkins spoke and said trees not only beautify neighbors but clear tons of carbon dioxide while producing oxygen.
Club president Berni Hendrix said nationally six million street trees have a value of $525 according to Management Information Services. She said a Texas A&M lab experiment noted that visual exposure to settings with trees has produced significant recovery from stress within five minutes. The study noted changes in blood pressure and muscle tension.
Trees, she said, can improve economic development of a town. And according to the USDA, mature and healthy trees add 10 percent to property value.
"There are about 60 to 200 million spaces along our city streets nationally where trees could be planted," said Hendrix. "This translates to a potential absorbing 33 million more tons of CO2 every year, resulting in a savings of $4 billion in energy costs, and that's according to the National Wildlife Federation."
Vierra said the city takes care of 15,000 street trees and park trees.
Ceres has met the four points of criteria to be dubbed Tree City USA:
• Have a tree board or department that plants and maintains trees;
• Host an annual Arbor Day observance;
• Adopt and enforce a tree care ordinance;
• Budget a program that allocates at least $2 per resident for the care of city trees.
Vierra told students that trees help cleanse the air by intercepting airborne particles, reducing heat, and absorbing such pollutants as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. Trees remove this air pollution by lowering air temperature, through respiration, and by retaining particulates. She also noted that some drugs and clothing come from tree products.
During the first Arbor Day observance in 1872, a million trees were planted in Nebraska.