On Monday evening, Liberty County 4-Hers gathered together during their monthly meeting to plant a tree at the Veterans Memorial Walk in Bryant Commons in honor of both veterans, and this year’s Arbor Day celebrations.
University of Georgia’s Extension Agent Ashley Hoppers, who heads the group of 4-H students, said that the tree planting has been in the works for a while. Originally, the tree planting didn’t have a location, or a tree, Hoppers said. It was just an idea for Arbor Day. After partnering with the Georgia Forestry Commission and the Soil and Water Conservation District, who donated the tree, and Hinesville Downtown Development Authority Director Michelle Ricketson, who suggested Veterans Walk, the idea finally came to fruition.
“It was a pleasure to partner with the GFC and the Soil and Water Conservation District,” Hoppers said. “We’re also tremendously grateful to Michelle Ricketson for allotting us a space at the Veterans Memorial Park.”
Arborist Jerry Holcomb and GFC ranger Alex Ballard were on hand to assist the kids with the entire process—from the first step of measurements to the last step of watering.
The process began with Holcomb explaining to the 4-Hers a little about the tree, and the conditions in which it fares. The tree that 4-H picked, Hoppers said, was a Bald Cypress. Those trees fare well in dry areas, or boggy areas, according to Holcomb. The tree will thrive in this type of environment, he said.
“In our fast-paced society, it’s easy to take the many benefits trees provide for granted, but we cannot reap their benefits without sowing first,” Hoppers said. “Each tree planted is an investment in a better future.”
To plant the tree, the 4-Hers needed to dig a hole nearly two to three times the size of the root ball of the tree, Holcomb said, which was about 12 inches wide. With the width determined, the depth of the hole depends where the root flare falls on the tree, Holcomb continued.
“I was going to let them dig deep and then have to build it back up,” Holcomb said laughing. The 4-Hers ended up digging a hole about 10 inches deep, and about 30 inches wide.
Before placing the tree into the freshly dug hole, the 4-Hers hopped in and flattened the ground to keep the tree from settling down further. Holcomb then took a large knife and started hacking at the root ball to break up dirt, and cut the roots so that new ones would sprout from the original, he said.
Once the tree was placed, the 4-Hers worked together to pack dirt in and around the tree to hold it straight. After much back and forth about the crookedness of the tree, and some teasing from Holcomb, the 4-Hers got it straight and filled in the dirt around it, officially planting their Bald Cypress in Veterans Memorial Park.
“We started this club to provide educational opportunities and spread awareness to youth about the importance of being good earth stewards. I’m proud of our 4-H Forestry Club for sharing in the significance of a tree planting for their community, and I look forward to watching this tree grow and cast its sweet shade for years to come,” Hoppers said.
Normally, Arbor Day is celebrated on the third Friday of the month, depending on when it’s the right time to plant a tree in different regions, Ricketson said. The Forestry Club meets on the fourth Monday, so that’s when Arbor Day was recognized this year.
To complete the experience, both a veteran and active duty military solider were there to watch the 4-Hers complete the tree planting, and everyone gathered together for a group photo to celebrate the brand new tree that now lives and grows in Veterans Memorial Park.
“I would love to make this an annual 4-H Forestry Club tree planting,” Hoppers said. “Maybe we can come back here again or go somewhere else, but there’s always somewhere that needs a tree planted."