Grand Island Named Tree City USA at Arbor Day Tree Planting

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Grand Island, NE It's a state holiday that began back in 1872 with the planting of 1 million trees in Nebraska. Friday that Arbor Day tradition continued.

Grand Island prides itself on trees, whether planting or caring for them. It's been acknowledged as Tree City USA 28 times, validating all the work the city does for trees.

"Following the 1980 tornado, wow, we planted just a ton of trees and now you're seeing those such majestic things in our community so this is 1 more example. Each year you need to go ahead and also be mindful and plant a tree and give back and also something you can go ahead and enjoy with your family. Hopefully we're sending the right message for all of those things," said Grand Island Mayor Jay Vavricek.

And the large number of awards show trees are a big part of the city's history.

Mayor Vavricek said, "You can look on our older neighborhoods, giant almost 100-year old trees. So we knew when the pioneers came here there weren't any trees at all so they wanted shade, they want comfort, they wanted to have an opportunity to go ahead and have protection. And you're seeing that in Grand Island."

But you probably won't see it in other metropolitan communities.

"Our cities have lost 30-40% of their tree canopy over the last 50 years and they're not getting put back in and that's what Grand Island is doing is they're making sure they're getting put back in," said Pat Haight, of the Nebraska Community Forestry Council.

And the city is putting them back in large numbers, like the new one at Augustine Park.

Todd McCoy, the Director of the Parks and Recreations Department, said, "We have 30 parks in Grand Island, each park has numerous trees. Last year at this time, we planted over 177 trees at the Veteran Athletic Complex, so planting trees is something that the Parks and Recreations Department is proud to do every year."

It's so important for kids to be involved in trees in Grand Island because they will be the ones carrying on the future of the 28 time Tree City USA.

"When you plant a tree, you nourish it, your grow it, you care for it, you enjoy it, and it's much like everything we do in life, you're trying to give back, but also something you can take with you for the rest of your life," said Mayor Vavricek.

And the kids of Gates Elementary have already begun to help out the nearby park.

McCoy said, "They come and they clean the park. One month I know they came and picked up sticks, and they pick up trash, any cleaning that they can do. So they help the Parks & Rec Department, they really help us out and take a load off."