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City trees: Earth Day and Arbor Day

Both of these days came and went two weeks back, a little more quietly than what is normal, as this is the current “new norm.” Plans had been made for both Spruce Up Austin and the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center to hold public events which included the planting of trees.

At the Nature Center, Director Luke Riess had coordinated efforts with the orchestra, which was to perform at several different venues within Austin that week, including what would have been the date for the Taste of Nations, the now annual event which was held last year at Packer Arena.

Riess arranged for orchestra members to get their hands dirty by assisting with the plantings of 78 oak saplings at the Nature Center. Given the COVID-related cancellations and physical-distancing restrictions, that plan took a bit of a different twist, which resulted in Nature Center staff, interns, and other volunteers planting the trees on Earth Day, April 22. A detailed explanation of their planting efforts from that day can be found on the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center Facebook page.

Spruce Up Austin was scheduled to plant a number of trees on Arbor Day, two days following Earth Day on April 24.

Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Nelson stands by a tree he planted together with Spruce Up Austin member Mike Ruzek. Photo provided

However, given the COVID-19 restrictions, I nixed the group event, knowing how social this group can be and given the close proximity (of ‘workers’) needed when planting their typical larger trees.

One particular Spruce Up member, Mike Ruzek, who happens to be one of the founding members of Spruce Up, contacted me, expressing that it would be a shame that the day would have to come and go without the traditional planting of one or more trees, in what would be the first miss in 30 years.

I indicated to Ruzek that the Arbor Day Foundation gave a reprieve on the need to plant trees to maintain the Tree City USA status this year due to COVID-19 concerns. However, sensing the sentimentality of both the event and the cause to Ruzek, I offered to plant a tree with him on Arbor Day. Ruzek then offered to pick out and donate a tree. When selecting the tree, Ruzek explained to Brian Dolan at Dolan’s Nursery the intended purpose of the tree, and Dolan replied that he needed to do his part for the cause and therefore substantially discounted the 11-ft Prairie Gem Pear tree.