The 130th celebration of Georgia Arbor Day will be Feb. 21. Because trees are so important to our lives, the City of Cumming and several Forsyth County agencies are teaming up to offer several tree-related activities.
What’s so special about trees?
Trees function in several areas to improve our local environment, conserve energy and foster health.
Environmental benefits. Trees provide food and habitat for migratory birds and native wildlife. They’re also an important component in pollinator health. Trees prevent soil erosion by slowing down raindrops with their leaves and holding onto soil with their roots. As shed leaves decompose, they return nutrients and organic matter to soil, improving soil fertility and condition.
Energy benefits. By creating shade, trees help cool the environment around them — by as much as 20 degrees in urban settings. A strategically planted trees casting as little as 17% shade on a house can reduce cooling costs by $10 per month. In winter months, deciduous trees drop their shading leaves to let warming sunlight strike the home, while evergreen trees planted on the north and west sides lift wind up and over the house to lower heating bills.
Health benefits. Trees provide physical, mental, and social health benefits. Tree leaves cleanse the air of pollutants such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and sulfur dioxide, as well as fine dust particles. This service helps reduce allergies, asthma, and respiratory issues.
Exposure to trees and other elements of nature helps us be more positive and less stressed, improving our mental health. Socially, the presence of trees encourages people to spend time outside, which increases a sense of community, neighborliness, and awareness of what’s “normal” in our surroundings. This, in turn, helps decrease crime.
A study in Baltimore quantified the relationship between tree canopy and the types of crime that typically happen outdoors, finding that “a 10% increase in tree cover would be associated with an 11.8% decrease in crime rate,” according to Troy, Grove, & O’Neill-Dunne, 2012.
City of Cumming to hold celebration on Feb. 21
The City of Cumming is working with Keep Forsyth County Beautiful, Forsyth County Extension, and the Georgia Forestry Commission to become a Tree City, U.S.A. Hosting an Arbor Day tree planting event is part of that process.
“In talking to everybody,” said Jennifer Archer, City of Cumming City Center property manager, of her research into the Tree City program, “the City of Cumming already does everything [required] to be a tree city. We want to be recognized for what we do.”
The celebration will take place from 5:30-7:30 p.m., at the playground behind the Cumming Aquatic Center, 201 Aquatic Circle, Cumming.
You’ll hear from Community Forester Seth Hawkins of the Georgia Forestry Commission and Cumming Mayor Troy Brumbalow, learn how to properly plant a tree with UGA Extension, and get a free tree seedling from Keep Forsyth County Beautiful.
The Los Rios food truck will also be on site for delicious dining.
Other events celebrating
Arbor Day include:
• Monday, Feb. 17, 1 p.m.: Join Forsyth County Extension Master Naturalist and Master Gardener volunteers to help spruce up the Sustainable Community Orchard at Chattahoochee Pointe Park.
• Wednesday, Feb. 19, noon: Arbor Day Celebration at Halcyon, Market Hall. Tree planting and more.
• Now through Feb. 18: Favorite Tree social media contest: Visit the Keep Forsyth County Beautiful Facebook page to post a photo of your favorite Forsyth County tree and why it’s special to you. Contest winners will be announced at the Feb. 21 City of Cumming Arbor Day Celebration.
Trees are a long-term investment in our future. Plant one this Arbor Day for yourself, your landscape, and our community.
Heather N. Kolich is the Agriculture & Natural Resources agent for the UGA Extension Forsyth County.