YORKTOWN, N.Y. – This year’s annual Arbor Day ceremony squeezed a lot of celebrating into 45 minutes, as more than 50 residents and town officials gathered on a sunny, warm day at Patriot Garden on Thursday, April 28.
In addition to observing the national holiday, the occasion marked the sixth year of Yorktown’s Tree City USA recognition from the Arbor Day Foundation. According to its website, the Tree City USA program’s mission is “to celebrate the importance of an urban tree canopy and improve care of these vital city trees.”
Bill Kellner of the Tree Conservation Advisory Commission led the series of ceremonies, which was kicked off by Girl Scout Troop 1326 with the Pledge of Allegiance. Town Supervisor Michael Grace read the Arbor Day proclamation and Councilman Vishnu Patel said a few words about the significance of acting in the present with the future in mind.
“Someone is sitting in the shade because someone planted a tree long ago,” Patel said.
A special ceremony was held in honor of Lorraine DeSisto, who was instrumental in re-establishing Yorktown’s Arbor Day commemoration. She died at 65 in 2014 after a long battle with ovarian cancer. A tree was planted in her honor and a plaque was placed under it. DeSisto’s family was in attendance. Unveiling the plaque were Alice Roker, Geri Schwalb and Town Clerk Diana Quast, all of the Yorktown Rotary Club.
“We miss her very much. She will always remain in our hearts especially on this day,” Kellner said.
The winners of the annual Arbor Day poster contest were announced and the entries were on display during the ceremony. This year’s theme was, “Native Trees Provide a Home for Wildlife.” The participants, all fourth- and fifth-grade students at Lakeland and Yorktown schools, received certificates. The winning submissions will be made into banners and displayed on select streets in Yorktown, Shrub Oak and Jefferson Valley. They will also be hung in town hall in July and on the town’s website.
Girl Scout Troop 1326 wished good health to the trees from the four corners of Yorktown by tossing dirt from each corner onto the base of a recently planted river birch. They will earn their Arbor Patch for their efforts.
Kellner invited the girls back for Arbor Day 2047 when, like them, the saplings they assisted in planting will be fully grown.
“In the year 2047, when you see the tall trees that have grown up in the Patriot Garden, maybe you’ll think back to Arbor Day 2017 and how you started something really big and really important,” he said.
He thanked the town board and Yorktown Planning Department, Comptroller Patricia Caporale, the Department of Parks and Recreation, and Highway Superintendent Dave Paganelli for their support and contributions to the ceremony.
Quast, recreation commission chair, was given the Tree City USA hat in recognition of her efforts to further Arbor Day and the environmental quality of the town’s parks. Kellner also acknowledged the Yorktown Lions and Rotary Clubs for their donations to support the event.
Tree Conservation Commission members Dale Salzman and Keith Schepart were also recognized. Along with his activity on the tree commission, Schepart owns Taconic Tree Care Inc. and donated the company’s services to prune trees in the garden.
“And of course, none of this could be done without the tremendous effort and energy provided by Arbor Day committee member Ann Kutter,” Kellner said.
Refreshments—tree-shaped cookies and locally produced cider—were provided by the Yorktown Pastry Shop and Con Edison donated a sampling of small trees for people to take home and plant.
As a part of New York State’s Trees for Tribs program, Kellner announced that watershed forester Brendan Murphy, of the Watershed Agricultural Council, would be planting six native trees along the edge of the garden the following day.
The Trees for Tribs program was created in 2007 to reforest New York’s tributaries, or small creeks and streams, which flow into and feed larger rivers and lakes, according to the website for the Department of Environmental Conservation.
The goal of the program is to plant young trees and shrubs along stream corridors, to prevent erosion, increase flood water retention, improve wildlife and stream habitat, and protect water quality. According to the website, Trees for Tribs has engaged more than 7,600 volunteers in planting more than 66,000 trees and shrubs at 470 sites across New York State.
“These trees will improve the wetland that you see next to the garden, which is the source of water for the New Croton Reservoir,” Kellner said. “To further help this important wetland, we will remove invasive plants that are growing here.”
He invited anyone to participate and said equipment would be provided.