Students climb trees and celebrate Arbor Day in the 24:1 with MDC and partners

News from the region
Saint Louis
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PAGEDALE, Mo.—Most every kid loves to climb trees, but it’s even more fun when you can do it during a school day.  That’s what 30 7th and 8th graders from St. Ann Catholic School in Normandy discovered.

Their tree climbing experience was thanks to Tree City USA.  Tree City USA is a recognition and certification program of the National Arbor Day Foundation for municipalities who meet designated tree care standards in their communities.  The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) manages the program for the Show-Me-State. 

One requirement for Tree City USA certification is to hold an annual Arbor Day celebration event in the month of April, during which National Arbor Day is observed.  The technical tree climbing adventure, under the guidance of Vertical Voyages, was part of an event hosted by the 13 Tree City USA-certified communities in the 24:1 Collaborative.  The collaborative was formed by the non-profit organization Beyond Housing to serve the 24 communities of the Normandy School District.  The 24:1 Arbor Day event took place April 22, Earth Day, in St. Louis County’s St. Vincent Park.

“The point of the day is to help the kids appreciate trees a little more and open their eyes to forestry and arboriculture as a career path.” said Beyond Housing Community Forester, Doug Seely.

The students arrived at 9 a.m. and cycled through three different educational rotations.  In addition to the tree climbing, the stations included invasive species removal with the Open Space Council—where the kids spent time pulling nonnative winter creeper growing in the park—and a chance to watch the MDC mobile sawmill in action.  The mill was operated by MDC foresters and gave the students a glimpse of how trees that have been harvested are converted to useful boards.  The St Louis County Parks Forestry department displayed their equipment and discussed arboriculture as a career with the attendees.

One of the trees milled on site was an ash taken down within the 24:1 Collaborative due to the emergence of the destructive emerald ash borer.  Seely said after two years of drying, the wood is slated to be used to create benches for use in local parks.

After completing all the activities, the students enjoyed a pizza lunch as part of the event.  St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page joined the Arbor Day celebration in the park by addressing the kids during lunch.  He then assisted several of the students as they planted a native eastern redbud tree in the park provided by SiteOne Landscape Supply.  

A survey of the students at lunch made it clear that the tree climbing was their favorite activity, and elicited comments like “It was just fun in general to be on top . . . it was pretty up there”, and “I liked watching them cut the trees and learning what they can do with wood.”

Was the event a success?  Seely said he asked the kids afterwards how many might someday like to be community foresters.  Five of them raised their hands.  “I was very happy to see those hands go up in the air,” said Seely.

“It's always great to see a group of kids taking an interest in trees and the role they play in our lives. It's amazing how the perspective seems to change as they get 20-30 feet up in a tree. I'm hoping this inspires a group of future foresters or arborists!” said MDC Community Forester, Mark Grueber.

The proceedings also included the presentation of a $50,000 check from Ameren Missouri to event partners Forest ReLeaf, the Nature Conservancy, and Beyond Housing.  The funds will help homeowners in the 24:1 communities pay for removal and replacement of hazard trees.

Just as it’s the dream of every kid to spend a beautiful spring day climbing trees, the dream of many foresters is that those kids may one day follow in their footsteps.  The 24:1 Arbor Day event might just have made some of those dreams come true.

“I was very pleased with how the day went overall,” said Seely.