The Alert spoke with Bonnie Warren of the Frankfort Tree Board and Jim Grabowski, tree wrangler extraordinaire, ahead of the 8th Annual Arbor Day event at 9:30 a.m. this Friday, April 29. With children, parents, and city officials looking on, a maple will be planted at Frankfort–Elberta Elementary School, where the first of these sylvan celebrations took place in 2004. Frankfort has been recognized by the National Arbor Day Foundation as a Tree City again this year for the seventh time, and it’s the sixth year they’ve earned a foundation Growth Award. The 2011 Tree City poster was made from an oil painting of the Frankfort beach cannon by the artist Joan Miller. It’s titled Lonely Vigil, and is available for $15 at City Hall, the Bookstore, and Java 429.
The Elberta Alert: What variety of maple will be planted Friday, and why maple?
Jim Grabowski: It’ll probably be an autumn blaze. They’re fast-growing and quickly become good shade trees; they’re a cross between a silver and a red maple, but they have red leaves only in the fall. We usually can’t find big enough sugar maples, and they’re slower growing—we usually plant a twelve-foot, two-inch caliper tree.
EA: How did you get involved with Frankfort and the Tree Board?
JG: The city of Frankfort found me about four years ago. My company is called Upland Meadow Landscaping. I provide potted trees, which some arborists the city consulted had recommended, because they’re easier to plant properly than field-dug trees. The city had been having some trouble with trees that had gone in wrong. Some of our grants early on were specific about the size of the tree, and that they had to be balled in burlap. We planted all those trees in that row [along the school fence by M-22]. I’m a real tree freak. I came up with an idea at yesterday’s Tree Board meeting. You know how birders make their life list of birds they’ve seen? We need a tree guild that would do that sort of thing with identifying trees.
EA: What are some of the more unusual trees in Frankfort, size or species-wise?
JG: I can’t really think of any off the top of my head. I’d have to think about it. Frankfort is kind of industrial. Arcadia used to have some major copper beeches that were planted about 100 years ago. The Frankfort Tree Board is going to do a survey of the trees around town and get younger people involved. The Tower Hill Park has a nice stand of about 10-acres of timber. It’s going to undergo some improvements, and they’re going to put in a frisbee golf course.
EA: To what do you attribute Frankfort’s success at being named a tree city these past seven years?
Bonnie Warren: There is a tremendous amount of work involved in maintaining Tree City status and earning a Growth Award each year. We have a dedicated group of volunteers that help us achieve those goals. The organization and continuation of the board is a result of the vision and hard work of Peggy Hawley, and credit for what has been achieved should clearly be given to her. The Tree Board was established by ordinance in 2004, following guidelines set by the National Arbor Day Foundation. The leader in all this work was Peggy Hawley, and the original board consisted of Peggy, Mary Armstrong, and Nancy Marshall. Current board members are Janet Pomerleau, Judy Macey, and myself.
EA: Besides the Arbor Day planting, what other work does the Tree Board do?
BW: We have an ongoing mission of education. There are posters up now in businesses along Main Street that the students made for Arbor Day, illustrating the value of trees. We’re handing out 500 white spruce seedlings on Friday. Also, if you come into town, you may notice tree tags on some trees giving the value of that tree in terms of environmental savings. There’s one by the funeral home, one on Michigan Avenue, one at the old barber shop by M-22 and Corning Ave, and one across the street in Market Square Park. There will be one at the Library, but I just had to rescue it because it came loose in the wind. We will rehang it when it calms down.
EA: Why white spruce to hand out to the kids?
JG: White spruce are native, unlike your blue spruce. They’re also deer resistant compared to white pine. It’s a great yard tree. It’s one of the sturdiest and most disease resistant of all the conifers.
EA: What’s the tree board’s annual budget?
BW: We don’t have an annual budget. We raise money from poster sales and some contributions. The city has a budget for tree care (trimming, removal, and planting), from which we can request funds when there is a specific need and if there is any money left in the budget. Last year $14,000 was designated for tree care and it was gone by the end of the year. We anticipate that budgeted money will be less this year.
EA: What about the proposed city nursery at BLUA? What’s that all about?
JG: It would be used to plant 25 trees a year in the city. An eagle scout is working on the proposal, and that will take care of a lot of the labor force and the fundraising. We have permission from BLUA but they haven’t signed a contract yet. We’re hoping to put in 100 trees on that property. It would save the city a lot of money to draw from that source rather than outside nurseries every year. The mayor and BLUA are working together on the details. I think it would be a great thing for Frankfort, and for Elberta too. Ψ