Billings’ Arbor Day celebration April 25 in Pioneer Park will begin with cleanup and beautification and end with education about trees.
In the middle, Gov. Steve Bullock, Billings Mayor Tom Hanel and others will talk about the importance of trees to a crowd that already knows something about it, including an expected 400 or so fourth-graders.
Last year’s Arbor Day celebration was held at Rose Park. More than 100 volunteers planted, pruned and fertilized trees; landscaped three beds; painted part of the Rose Pool building; edged sidewalks; and mulched more than 100 trees.
This year’s theme is “Pioneering the Future Through Trees.”
Billings has been celebrating Arbor Day in one way or another for more than a century. Now that it’s a Tree City USA, an Arbor Day celebration is required.
On April 15, 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt — himself an avid outdoorsman — issued what he called “An Arbor Day Proclamation to the School Children of the United States.” The proclamation extolled the importance of trees and urged that forestry be taught in U.S. schools.
Each year’s Billings Arbor Day celebration grows a bit over the year before. Consider the schedule for this year’s event:
At 7:30 a.m., at least 100 volunteers will gather at the east side of Pioneer Park to begin pruning, planting, painting and picking up trash. Ninety minutes later, the fourth-graders will go on a learning quest involving about 20 groups who will set up learning centers in the park.
12:15 p.m. marks the beginning of the official Arbor Day celebration and is open to the general public, said Fred Bicha, the city’s forester. Bullock will join students to plant a tree; Parks, Recreation and Cemetery Board Chairman Rich DeVore and Jon Thompson, Billings superintendent of parks, will also offer remarks.
At 2 p.m., the education portion of the celebration begins, this one for adults. Three tree professionals will lead residents through a tree tour of Pioneer Park “to look at different species, talk about the good and the bad and encourage people to plant different things,” Bicha said. Another expert will talk about soil types, which Bicha labeled “a dry but important subject.” A third talk will cover planting and pruning.
All events are free, and volunteers who register by contacting the Parks and Recreation Department at 406-657-8371 will receive a free lunch and a T-shirt.
“I always stand back in awe at the community pride that Billings has, with people willing to donate their day to our parks system,” Bicha said. “It’s been neat to watch people get involved.”