By Donna Beth Weilenman
Benicians will celebrate their trees Saturday with Arbor Day music, tours, climbing and planting demonstrations, as well as the awarding of a prize in the Great Benicia Tree Challenge.
It is only the second year Benicia has marked Arbor Day, an event that was started in Nebraska in 1874, two years after it was proposed by Sterling Morton, secretary of the Nebraska Territory and Secretary of Agriculture during Grover Cleveland’s presidency.
Benicia has a variety of activities planned in and around City Park for Arbor Day, said Wolfram Alderson, executive director of the Benicia Tree Foundation.
Food, music and art booths will open at 10 a.m. to welcome browsers prior to the first tree tour at 10:30 a.m. Ed Brennan, a certified arborist, will describe the local trees to visitors.
At 11:15 a.m., a representative of A-Plus Tree Service will scramble skyward in a tree climbing demonstration.
The winner of the Tree Challenge will be given an iPad at noon. The winner will be a Benicia student in fifth to 12th grade who registered on the tree foundation’s website, www.beniciatrees.org, and submitted digital photos of trees that the winner identified by botanical name and geographic coordinate location.
The contest began Sept. 15, and will end at 11:59 p.m. Friday. The winner must be present at the Arbor Day celebration to receive his or her prize.
Brennan will give a second tour of trees at 12:15 p.m., and at 1 p.m., members of West Coast Arborist will demonstrate how to plant trees.
Trees aren’t the only botanicals residents can learn about Saturday. The California Native Plant Society will have between 500 and 600 native plants of varied species for sale.
Gene Doherty, president of the Society’s Willis Linn Jepson Chapter, said some of the plants will favor sun, others will like shade, and most will be drought-tolerant. A few natives do like water, he said.
“We have two plant sales each year. They’re our major fundraisers,” Doherty said. Chapter members will be on hand to talk about the benefits of landscaping a yard with native plants, and to guide residents about their purchases. He said the organization’s website, www.cnpsjepsonchapter.org, will list the types of plants the organization will be selling.
Benicia has a goal of adding 1,000 new trees within its city limits, Alderson said. The foundation will plant two new trees at 5 p.m. Friday in a tree planting ceremony at the home of Annabelle Marie Cruz, 260 Semple Crossing, Alderson said. The home owner bought a Japanese snow bell and a Japanese maple for the ceremony, and volunteers from the tree foundation will do the work.
Alderson said he’s also looking forward to the city selecting existing trees as heritage trees.
Benicia itself wants to add 300 more trees to land that is under the city’s jurisdiction, Alderson said. Planting them near schools could reduce the impact of the 58,000 cars that daily speed past on Interstate 780, he said.
Since 2008, Benicia has been designated a Tree City USA. It adopted its tree program Sept. 15, 2009. The city expects first results of its tree survey of about 4,500 trees in about two weeks. The entire inventory may be complete by December, said Mario Giuliani, Office of the Director of Parks and Community Services.
As part of maintaining its Tree City USA certification, the city started planting 20 tulip trees Thursday afternoon in Southampton Park, assisted by Benicia High School Interact Club, Giuliani said. The city has posted a sign on East Second Street announcing the designation. Arbor Day events also are Tree City requirements, he said.
Benicia’s first Arbor Day was in spring. But communities have leeway in setting their celebration dates. Giuliani said the city had a second festival last October, and decided that the third Saturday in October was an ideal date.
“We were motivated by weather,” he said. “And now is the time to plant trees.”
If You Go
Benicia’s Arbor Day festivities start at 10 a.m. Saturday at City Park, First Street at Military.