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2,500 tree seedlings up for grabs during Saturday's Johnson City Arbor Day celebration

Zach Vance • Apr 1, 2017 at 7:40 PM

How many trees make up a forest?  

Well, it varies.

Most conservation organizations classify forests based on percentage of cover, but Johnson City’s forestry division gave enough free trees away to cover several acres Saturday. 

City forester Patrick Walding, Science Hill agriculture students and members of the Johnson City Power Board began distributing a supply of 2,500 seedlings at Metro-Kiwanis Park as part of the City’s annual Arbor Day celebration. 

Although the morning’s chilly climate wasn’t ideal for immediately planting the Dogwood, Red Maple, Sweetgum, Bald Cypress and Swamp White Oak varieties, dozens of interested gardeners showed up eager to begin tending their saplings. 

Since 2010, the city has dispersed 20,450 trees to the public in celebration of Arbor Day, which is officially celebrated on the first Friday in March in Tennessee. 

“Starting out, (we) had a 10,000-tree goal and actually we’re over 20,000 (trees). People seem to like it,” Walding said. 

“Some are the same people every year and some are new people. Personally, I just like bringing attention to trees. It’s neat to see the families and the kids get excited. We’ve had a few with a big bag of trees going home. It’s just cool to plant something and watch it grow.” 

Among the many benefits of planting the trees, Walding said trees prevent erosion, produce shade, create an ecosystem for wildlife and absorb carbon dioxide and potentially harmful gases. 

Accompanying each seedling was a flyer that educated the grower on the “do’s” and “don’ts” of growing.

“It’s tells about the height and width, and just some attributes about the trees that are neat,” Walding said. 

The two best times to plant a tree, according to Walding, is either during mid- to late fall or early spring. Walding said the tree seedlings could last about a week if stored in a cool, moist place. 

The JCPB marketing team was also present to educate the public on where to properly plant trees in relation nearby power lines. 

“Don’t plant directly under the power lines. We hand out literature and give out things to educate our customers. That helps the reliability of our system to keep the trees out of the power lines,” said Brian Ellis, JCPB service department manager. 

Ashley Raines was one of many who followed the “Free Trees” signs to Guaranda Drive to collect some seedlings. 

“My goal is to one day own a nice piece of property, so I figured, ‘Why not go ahead and start (growing) them?’ So later on when I do get a piece of property, I can plant them on it,” Raines said. 

Raines selected two Dogwoods, a Red Maple and a Swamp White Oak to begin cultivating for her future estate. 

Science Hill volunteer Gabriel Gonzalez spread his knowledge of each tree species’ benefits, saying one Swamp White Oak will generate a swirl of red, yellow and orange colors during the fall.  

For the third year in the row, Science Hill FFA advisor Chris Dockery and 14 agriculture program students, including Gonzalez, volunteered to help coordinate the event.

“The students enjoy it, getting to hang out. And it’s a good thing to give out trees. (It’s) beneficial for obvious reasons,” Dockery said. 

This Arbor Day marks the 17th consecutive year that Johnson City has been named a “Tree City USA” by the National Arbor Day Foundation.

To maintain the designation, the city must have an Arbor Day observance day, a tree ordinance, a tree board, and meet minimum funding requirements for tree maintenance and planting.

For those eager green thumbs who missed out on Saturday’s event, Dockery said the Science Hill agriculture program will be selling various flowers, plants and greenery at the Johnson City Farmer’s Market during April and May. 

On April 7, East Tennessee State University, in conjunction with Bartlett Tree Experts, will distribute free tree seedlings from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Borchuck Plaza and in parking lot 22, located behind Earth Fare. 

Email Zach Vance at [email protected] Follow Zach Vance on Twitter at @ZachVanceJCP. Like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/ZachVanceJCP.

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