Thursday, May 6, 2010

Calgary gets back to its 'roots' on Arbor Day 2010

Today, thousands of Calgarians are celebrating Arbor Day, just like their brothers and sisters, parents and grandparents before them.

In May 8, 1905, Mayor Emerson and nine City Aldermen planted 10 trees in Victoria Park as a symbol of Calgary’s commitment to urban forestry. Since then, Arbor Day has become one of Calgary’s longest standing traditions.

At the turn of the century in Calgary, businesses closed and neighbours came together on Arbor Day to plant trees at their homes and in their parks.

“It was so important to Calgarians in the early part of the century that it was declared a bank holiday,” said Russell Friesen, Urban Forestry coordinator for The City.

On May 2, 1922, Arbor Day took on a deeper meaning with the planting of trees along Memorial Drive in honour of Calgary’s First World War fallen.

In 1958, Calgary’s Arbor Day started a new tradition whereby grade 1 students from Calgary’s Catholic and public school districts received a tree seedling to bring home and plant in their yards. To date, 400,000 seedlings have been given to students by Alberta Sustainable Resource Development.

According to Friesen, it’s not uncommon for Calgarians to visit their trees every Arbor Day to reminisce or just to see how the trees are doing.

“I think every Calgarian who went through the school system here has an Arbor Day story,” said Friesen.

As part of the school Arbor Day program, a school is chosen each year as the official Arbor Day host school where an environment themed celebration takes place and a tree is planted on school property. This year’s host school is Father Scollen Elementary and Junior High School.

Arbor Day is The City’s longest standing green initiative. According to The City of Calgary Parks, tree planting is an important part of City planning.

Trees reduce erosion of topsoil by wind and water, cut the cost of heating and cooling our homes by providing shelter, clean the air and are home to wildlife. Trees in the city also increase property values and enhance the economic vitality of business areas.

In Calgary, Arbor Day has special significance because trees do not grow easily here.

“We only get about half the natural rainfall that’s needed to support a tree,” explained Friesen. “The real strength of Arbor Day is the relationship it builds between Calgarians and their environment,” said Friesen. “It’s that respite, that bit of nature, that we relate to so strongly here in Calgary.”

For more information about Arbor Day and The City’s trees, visit

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