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Volunteers give away 700 seedlings for Arbor Day

Saturday, April 4, 2009 | 4:41 p.m. CDT; updated 4:58 p.m. CDT, Saturday, April 4, 2009

COLUMBIA — Columbia got a little greener Saturday — 700 times greener, in fact.

In celebration of Arbor Day, Columbia Parks and Recreation and Columbia TreeKeeper volunteers gave away 700 tree seedlings to the public.

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Jacob Kingery, who took home a pitch loblolly pine, said he was looking forward to adding it to his landscaping.

"It's an enjoyable thing for people to plant a tree and watch it grow," Kingery said.

So many people were looking forward to receiving a free seedling that by the time the giveaway began at 8:30 a.m., a long line had already formed in the Activity and Recreation Center parking lot, near the Columbia Farmers' Market. Within an hour, all trees were gone.

But that's not a surprise, according to Eric Schmittel, a groundskeeper for Parks and Recreation. 

Every year the seedlings go very quickly, he said, but that doesn't mean they will give away more next year.

"We'll run out eventually no matter what," he said.

Another person taking home a tree was Jody Coats, who selected a flowering dogwood for her mother.

Flowering trees always prove to be a popular pick, said Schmittel and David Dittmer, a forester with Parks and Recreation. This year, they gave away three flowering species.

Schmittel added that while this event was partly a public relations event for Parks and Recreation, it also serves another important purpose.

"(It's a) service to the public so people can know the importance of trees," he said.

This year, eight different species of trees were given away, including redbud, pin oak, tulip poplar, pitch loblolly pine, black gum, flowering dogwood, shortleaf pine and white oak.

Dittmer said that he was there to help the public with questions about trees and how to select the right seedling.

"We try to point them in the direction of what will work for their yard," Dittmer said. "Every year the farmers market crowd is very excited about taking care of their yards."

Schmittel said they order their seedlings from the Conservation Department in Licking. The department produces a catalog each year with a large selection of tree species, so those who missed out on receiving a free seedling can still order them cheaply, at $8 to $10 a tree.


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