The City of Atlantic Beach celebrated Arbor Day on Jan. 20 with Atlantic Beach Elementary School. Festivities began at the flag poles in front of the Public Safety Building, where Mayor Curtis Ford proclaimed the day as City of Atlantic Beach Arbor Day. The City follows the Florida tradition by recognizing the third Friday in January as Arbor Day.
The annual Arbor Day celebration was coordinated by the City Commission-appointed Environmental Stewardship Committee (ESC). ESC Chair Mark Gabrynowicz regaled the audience with tales of Johnny Appleseed and was joined by Atlantic Beach Elementary School Principal Kim Gallagher and Brook Merritt, the Atlantic Beach Elementary Beaches Go Green Student Leadership Club sponsor, and the club members. It was a special treat to have the club join in the festivities and lead the Arbor Day flag-raising for the first time.
Events continued at Atlantic Beach Elementary School, where the City planted a bald cypress tree to commemorate the special day with the supervision of the kindergarten classes. Students gathered around the tree and ESC member Bruce Andrews spoke to students about the importance of trees.
The celebration ended at Bull Memorial Park with an unveiling of the new Heritage Tree marker. The “Merry Tree” is about 128 years old and pays homage to Carson Merry Baillie, who was instrumental in founding the Atlantic Beach Experimental Theater, which staged performances at Adele Grage Cultural Center for about a quarter-century.
The City’s Arbor Day celebrations are spearheaded by the ESC and the City’s Planning and Community Development and Public Works departments. Although a City of Atlantic Beach heritage-tree designation does not prevent a tree from ever being removed, it makes it more difficult and costly to remove. Protected trees on private party must be mitigated at a rate of one inch for every two inches removed; a heritage tree must be mitigated at a rate of one inch for every inch removed. Heritage trees on city-owned property (parks and rights-of-way) are any tree determined by the City Commission to be of unique or intrinsic value due to its age, size, species, and/or cultural, ecological or historical significance or some other contribution to the city’s character, specifically including all cypress, live oak and magnolia trees with a diameter 30 inches or greater.
Atlantic Beach’s Arbor Day celebrations are carried out in connection with the City’s application to renew its Tree City USA designation, a recognition bestowed to communities that have programs in place to manage and expand their public trees.
In Arbor Day celebrations through the United States and beyond, citizens also are encouraged to do their part in helping to reduce air pollution, conserve energy, and beautify the environment by planting trees. Planting native trees protects the environment’s balance and beauty by preventing the spread of invasive plants and offsetting some of the potential impacts of climate change.