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Merced celebrates Arbor Day

The afternoon sun shone through four new Sequoia redwoods at Rahilly Park on Friday as 30 Chenoweth Elementary School second-graders made sure the trees stood firmly in place. They joined state forestry and city representatives to observe the uses and benefits of such greenery for Arbor Day. The event, which dates back to 1872, is celebrated throughout the country on April 25 with tree planting.

The celebration also observed the city of Merced’s 27th year as a Tree City.

“How many trees do we have in Merced?” Alexander Hall, director of Parks and Community Services, asked the Chenoweth students gathered that day.

“A billion!” one student shouted. “Over 1,000,” offered another child.

The answer: 80,000 trees.

To become a Tree City, a town must meet four standards established by The Arbor Day Foundation and the National Association of State Foresters, explained George Sanchez, Merced park/trees supervisor.

A city of any size must have a tree board or department legally responsible for the care and management of the trees. It must have a tree care ordinance to provide guidance for planting, maintaining and removing trees from streets, parks and other public places. The community must prove it has established a forestry program supported by an annual budget of at least $2 per capita.

And the city has to sponsor an Arbor Day observance and proclamation — just like Friday’s event.

Mayor Ellie Wooten read the proclamation, encouraging all citizens to protect the trees and woodlands. “Trees cut heating and cooling costs, produce oxygen, paper, wood for homes, wood for fires and increase property values,” she said in her speech.

And then Wooten watched the students, with help from city parks workers, dig holes and place the nearly 10- feet-high young redwoods into their new homes. They can grow here 80 to 100 feet tall, or to 200 feet in the mountains, Sanchez said.

Maple, Rio ash, ginkgo and sycamore trees were also planted Friday at Chenoweth, Don Stowell, Joe Stefani and Pioneer elementary schools, and Rivera and Tenaya middle schools.

“The tree is good for the environment,” said Thomas Hamilton, 7, a second-grader from Chenoweth. “It’s good to play in and climb in and stuff.”Wooten said she hopes all the students will walk away from Arbor Day knowing how important trees are, “not just for fuel, but for air. Now if only we could teach them paper conservation.”

Reporter Dhyana Levey can be reached at (209) 385-2472 or