FOLLANSBEE - Fifth-graders at Follansbee Middle School, members of the city's tree committee and city officials gathered near the school Wednesday to carry on an annual tradition.
Each year the city observes Arbor Day with the planting of a tree near the school, and each year it has been named Tree City USA by the National Arbor Foundation, noted Bob Hannah, urban forestry coordinator for the West Virginia Division of Forestry.
The honor is given by the Arbor Day Foundation, in cooperation with the National Association of State Foresters and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, to cities that have a tree board or department, an ordinance and budget for the care of trees on city property and a yearly observance of Arbor Day.
THINKING GREEN — Follansbee has been designated a Tree City USA by the National Arbor Day Foundation in recognition of its efforts to plant trees throughout the city and observe Arbor Day. Displaying a banner that will fly at the Follansbee City Building during an Arbor Day program at Follansbee Middle School Wednesday were, from left, Mayor Emeritus Tony Paesano, Bob Hannah, urban forestry coordinator for the West Virginia Division of Forestry; Follansbee tree committee members John Pizzuti and Nina Meca, Nancy Deters, the school’s assistant principal; and Mayor David Velegol Jr. -- Warren Scott
Follansbee is one of 15 West Virginia cities to receive the honor.
Bob Hannah, urban forestry coordinator for the West Virginia Division of Forestry, presented a Tree City USA banner to Mayor David Velegol Jr., Mayor Emeritus Tony Paesano and tree committee members Nina Meca and John J. Pizzuti.
The volunteer group also includes Patsy Gaudio, Jim Mirasola and Bob Shute.
The pupils were challenged to create posters showing the benefits of planting trees for a contest held in conjunction with the program.
The winners were Tim Diserio and Matthew Reed, who each received $25 gift cards provided by the city and assisted the tree committee in planting a Bradford pear tree below the city's softball field and not far from the school's entrance.
Several of the trees have been planted at the site during Arbor Day programs held there.
Paesano noted one day the children will be able to tell their own children how they were involved in planting a tree there. He also encouraged them to plant and care for 135 small spruces distributed to them at the end of the school day.
Hannah said a crabapple tree also has been donated by Toyota Motors to the city and all cities receiving the Tree City USA honor.
He shared the origin of Arbor Day with the pupils and others attending. He noted it was started in 1872 by J. Sterling Morton, a Nebraska newspaper editor. To encourage the planting of trees, Morton initiated the first Arbor Day observance with support from the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture.
Prizes were offered to those who planted the largest number of trees, and it's said that more than 1 million trees were planted on that day, Hannah said.
Soon other states followed Nebraska's example, and by 1894, Arbor Day was celebrated in each of them.
Hannah said Arbor Day now is celebrated in Nebraska on April 22, Morton's birthday, and is observed nationally on the last Friday of April. But the West Virginia Division of Forestry has named April Arbor Month in recent years, he said.