Tree City USA is special honor, challenge
People suffered plenty of inconvenience when the New Year's ice storm rolled through Southwest and Central Nebraska, but human suffering was minimal when compared to that endured by the trees.
We recall walking around outdoors, listening to the crashing trees, reminded of a slow artillery barrage. While the Holdrege and Kearney area suffered extensive, expensive power outages, most of the damage was confined to broken limbs and fallen branches in the McCook area.
Thousands of them still wait to be hauled to the City of McCook's compost site, where they eventually will be ground into mulch.
It's a good time for an annual reminder from the Natioal Arbor Day Foundation of the importance of trees.
And, while the foundation named McCook a Tree City USA, the honor carries a challenge as well.
We need to care for the broken trees, remove those beyond hope, and replant trees that will thrive in our area with a minimum of care.
This year's designation is the 22nd year McCook has received this national recognition, sponsored by the National Arbor Day Foundation in cooperation with the National Association of State Foresters and the USDA Forest Service.
It's especially appropriate to remember this year, McCook's 125th birthday, that planting trees was among the first tasks early McCook residents took on when the communiy was established.
To receive the designation, a town must establish a tree board or department, a tree care ordinance, a comprehensive community forestry program and an Arbor Day observance.
Currently serving are Jerry Vap, Dan Dueland, Leigh Farrell, Janella Hager and Mary Pate.
"Trees in our cities and towns help clean the air, conserve soil and water, moderate temperature and bring nature into our daily lives," said John Rosenow, president of the National Arbor Day Foundation. "Tree City USA designation recognizes the work of elected officials, staff and citizens who plant and care for the community forest.
"Trees are a vital component of the infrastructure in our cities and towns, and provide environmental and economical benefits," Rosenow added. "A commmunity and its citizens, that recognize these benefits and provide needed care for its trees, deserves recognition and thanks."
Perhaps that's true. But this year especially, we must take special care of our "community forest." That includes salvaging as many storm-damaged trees as possible, never "topping" trees, and, when the time comes, planting new trees that are appropriate for our area.
The City of McCook still offers a tree rebate program, which offers discounts in exchange for planting appropriate trees and mulching them. More information is available from local greenhouses or from the city offices, in Memorial Auditorium at West Fifth and C, or (308) 345-2022.