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Trees celebrated at Lucas
Students at Lucas Elementary School, a dual language academy, had the privilege of helping plant three trees on their campus during the May 27 Arbor Day celebration at their school. WIth them is Principal Israel Gonzalez. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

Lucas Elementary School students - 185 in all - parked themselves on the lawn of the playground on Tuesday, May 27 and helped city and school district officials observe Arbor Day and hail the value of trees to the life of those living in Ceres.

City officials mixed with teachers, students and school district officials on Friday afternoon to celebrate trees as well as the city of Ceres being designated - for the 21st time - the title of Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation.

The wiggly student body patiently sat through a reading of the city Arbor Day proclamation by Councilman Chris Vierra as well as a recitation of the benefits of trees by Urban Forester Glenn Flamik. But most were thinking about recreation employee Traci Farris who mentioned she would be doling out refreshments at the end of the ceremony. Those were doled out by members of the Ceres Garden Club.

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.

Prior to the ceremony, the K-6 students were asked to be a part of an Arbor Day poster contest. Winners of the contest were announced at the ceremony.

Flamik 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.

The ceremony ended with the planting of three Chinese Pistache trees which will provide shade for many future generations at Ceres' newest school.

During the first Arbor Day observance in 1872, a million trees were planted in Nebraska.

Last month the city's commitment to tree care was exhibited when the Ceres City Council stepped up its tree maintenance policy and not throw maintenance responsibilities into the lap of homeowners.

Jeremy Damas, the city's Deputy Public Works Director, said the council had the option of turning over pruning and/or tree removal responsibilities to property owners to save $100,000 annually. He cited the city of Turlock as one local city that took that course of action. But the Ceres City Council decided to add $25,000 to the annual $100,000 street tree budget as well as spend $46,000 annually over three next years to either prune or remove and replace some of the "high-risk" trees that threaten to topple and damage property or take lives.
Until now, the city has only pruned trees as requested by homeowners or on an as-needed basis.