On Friday, May 3, the Ithaca Garden club will welcome two new trees to Stewart Park for a belated celebration of Arbor Day, an annual holiday dedicated to tree planting. Rainy weather prevented the celebration for taking place on the nationally recognized day — April 26.
The event is a collaboration between three community leaders working on Ithaca’s trees and gardens: City Forester Jean Grace, Cornell Prof. Nina Bassuk, horticulture, and Tree Advisory Board Representative Beverly Hillman.
The team selected oak trees that will be planted along a park inlet leading to the Waterfront Trail as a gift to the city from the Ithaca Garden Club.
“The Ithaca Garden Club’s main focus is to donate to and beautify the city,” Hillman said. “Since our conception in 1920 we’ve given over $100,000 to city of Ithaca in form of crab apple trees, gardens at Stew Park, gardens at the hospital, the paleontological institute, and support of young students in research, and that’s just a small segment of what we’ve done.”
The Ithaca Garden Club has been celebrating Arbor Day since 1957, when members planted a 40-foot-tall sugar maple at the South Hill School. This year, the club will gift two oak trees bred by Bassuk.
“We began creating hybrid oaks to increase drought tolerance disease resistance tolerance of alkaline soil and good form,” Bassuk told the Sun. “We’ve been working on this since 2004.”
Many students and staff from Cornell’s Urban Horticulture Institute participated in the project.
The oaks selected for Arbor Day measure between 12 and 14 feet tall, and weigh roughly 450 pounds including the burlap-wrapped root balls, so planting will require several people.
“You have to be really into trees to do this, but educating people about trees is one of the most important things we can do to prevent climate change,” Hillman said. “They clean our air, they give us beauty, they give us shade. Especially in spring. It’s a renewal and rebirth and a time of great joy.”
The City of Ithaca currently qualifies as part of the Tree City USA community, a recognition that requires observing Arbor Day, as well as maintaining a forestry program with a budget of at least $2 per capita and incorporating tree management ordinances in local governance.
The Ithaca Arbor Day celebration will take place Friday, May 3rd from 1:30 to 3:00 p.m., near the boathouse at Stewart Park.