Dowagiac celebrates Arbor Day

Published 9:00 am Monday, April 28, 2014

Members of the local Boy Scouts lead attendees in the pledge of allegiance at the start of Friday’s ceremonies. (Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

Members of the local Boy Scouts lead attendees in the pledge of allegiance at the start of Friday’s ceremonies. (Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

Eighth-annual event held in honor of environmentalist

While this year’s extended winter may have delayed their budding, Dowagiac’s extensive collection of dogwood trees will soon be in bloom, once again displaying their white and pink petals in full splendor.

On Friday, the city celebrated the wonders of its dogwood and other wooded wonders with its eighth-annual Arbor Day Celebration, held downtown outside of city hall. A handful of tree-loving citizens participated in this year’s festivities, which were once again held in honor of the late Ed Darr, who helped bring the celebration to Dowagiac nearly a decade ago.

Dan Williams, the chairman of William A-1 Expert Tree Service in Dowagiac, once again delivered the remarks at this year’s event, stressing the importance of greenery within the city limits.

“We have a lot of reasons why we need trees, so we need to keep planting them,” Williams said. “Arbor Day is a celebration of that.”

Arbor Day was first started in 1872 by J. Sterling Morton, a native of Detroit, to promote the planting and transplanting of trees. The holiday was first celebrated in Morton’s home state of Nebraska, and spread to other states and nations around the world in the years that followed.

The holiday wasn’t officially celebrated by the City of Dowagiac until eight years ago, when Darr, a lifelong resident of the city, petitioned the city to become part of the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree City USA registry, said City Administrative Assistant Sue Watson.

“He was very environmentally conscious, and cared a lot about the city’s tree population,” Watson said. “He worked with us at the city to have Dowagiac become a Tree City USA.”

As part of that list of communities, the city is required to host an event for Arbor Day, which falls on the last Friday of April. In addition, officials are required to spend $2.75 per capita every year for tree maintenance and removal, Watson said.

With the sheer amount of dogwood trees that have become a symbol of the city, Watson joked that Dowagiac should be known as “Dogwood City USA.”

Last year, the city hosted the ceremony at Riverside Cemetery, near Darr’s final resting place where a Kousa dogwood tree was planted a few years ago in his memory, Watson said. This year, though, the festivities were toned down due to complications caused by the protracted winter season.

Among those in attendance outside city hall last week was Matt Stack, the city’s superintendent of public works.

“The city has a policy now, where every time we take down a tree, we have to plant another one somewhere else,” Stack said.

In the last three years, Stack was responsible for planting an average of 50 trees during the summer, he said. The variety and beauty of Dowagiac’s dogwood, red oak, Japanese lilac and other tree species are often praised by people throughout the community, he added.

“Along with our statues, people come into town just to see the trees,” Stack said. “People come from out of town to see them blossom in the spring.”

This year, Stack has plans to plant a couple of trees on the north side of city hall, including one dedicated to Mark A. Westrate, the city’s longtime attorney who passed away last August.

“As long as I still work here for the city, I’m going to keep planting,” Stack said.