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Spend Arbor Day in a tree
Tree Trail Poster
By Alena Parker
Special to the Coastal Courier (Hinesville, GA)

For many, February centers only on Valentine’s Day. Laura Devendorf sees it as an opportunity to show a different type of love.
With February also being Georgia History month, Devendorf likes to take the time to appreciate the natural resources that helped establish the state.
This year, Devendorf, Melon Bluff Nature and Heritage Reserve educational program director, wants others to join in.
Melon Bluff will celebrate Georgia Arbor Day on Saturday, Feb. 17. Highlighted will be the grand opening of the center’s new Live Oaking Trail and Treehouse.
The Live Oaking Trail will be open from 11:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. Guided tours will begin at the Melon Bluff Nature Center starting every 30 minutes; the last tour will leave at 3 p.m. Tours will be complete with re-enactors, volunteers from as far away as Atlanta and Savannah. Devendorf hints there will be familiar Liberty County officials also participating in the re-enacting.
The event will be “historically accurate,” Devendorf said. The re-enactors studied training manuals, and they appreciate that what they are doing is important.  
“We want to create the magic,” she said.
Many Georgians know the live oak is the state tree, but Devendorf says that it was once the most valuable tree in the world.
She notes how the natural resources of the Southeastern Coast were as important in the 1800s as the oil resources of Iraq and Iran are today.
Georgia Arbor Day visitors will get hands-on experience and learn about the men who did “live oaking.” They will get a feel for the difficult work of harvesting the live oak, whose limbs weighed over a ton.
“People don’t understand the critical role the live oak played in our nation’s history,” she said, explaining how the live oak “established dominance on the sea.”
When the nation was still young, the wood from this Georgia tree was used in building the ships that protected the nation from sea attacks and pirates.
“It’s the story of that time,” Devendorf said.
She thinks the experience will be a lot of fun for people of all ages.
“The whole program is holistic in nature,” she said.
Devendorf feels that we should not try to separate ourselves from nature. At Melon Bluff Heritage and Nature Reserve “man is interwoven with his landscape,” according to Devendorf.
Melon Bluff has been owned by Devendorf’s family since 1929. Devendorf operates Melon Bluff as a working conservation area in keeping with her father John Stevens’ values. Stevens dedicated his marshland to conservation in 1966, long before it was required by law.
“It’s the biggest natural resource and the public is invited to enjoy,” she said. “It’s just beautiful.”
For more information or make reservations call 884-5779 or visit their website
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