Stewardship taking root

Apr. 09, 2014 @ 10:15 PM

Their knees smudged with dirt and their hands covered in soil and mulch, students at B.T. Bullock Elementary School took a break from class Wednesday to work with school staff and community leaders to plant trees outside the school.

“You are the next generation of stewards of this land and trees,” Ken Laughinghouse of the City of Sanford’s Appearance Commission told a school assembly before they headed out to plant the young crabapple trees. “Treat them well.”

The city of Sanford teamed up with Lee County Schools to throw a big Arbor Day bash at Bullock on Wednesday afternoon, although the state already officially celebrated Arbor Day last month. Superintendent Andy Bryan told the Bullock students about how Arbor Day began when a pioneer moved to Nebraska and was disappointed by the lack of trees.

Bryan noted that while most holidays celebrate past events or accomplishments, Arbor Day is all about the future.

“Looking forward to the future is important, and it will make us better,” he said.

It wasn’t all just adults on Wednesday, however. Two fifth-grade classes sang songs — one about trees and one about Lee County specifically — and other individual students got up in front of all their classmates and the community leaders to recite poems they wrote in honor of Arbor Day or to give brief speeches.

One girl quoted from Dr. Suess’s paean to conservation, “The Lorax,” and others looked to science or history to talk about the importance of trees and of Arbor Day specifically.

State forestry officials were also on hand to officially present Sanford city leaders with the plaque declaring the city one of just 78 places in North Carolina that’s an official Tree City USA.

Liz Whitmore, a city planning official, said that designation is “something very near and dear to our hearts,” and Jennifer Rall of the N.C. Forestry Division said it ought to be a good sign to all “who take pride in improving the quality of life in Sanford through environmental stewardship.”

Just before the kids were released to go plant the trees, the director of Downtown Sanford Inc., David Montgomery, said some of his fondest childhood memories revolve around trees, particularly climbing them.

Students probably shouldn’t climb the tiny trees outside the school’s front office, but Montgomery told the assembly that they should all be proud of the legacy they’re helping to leave with the trees outside the school, which will bloom in radiant pinks, purples, reds, oranges and greens when they mature.