MONROE, CT — A Fall Fiesta Sugar Maple was planted in the gaga ball area on the pond side of Wolfe Park during a small Arbor Day ceremony Friday morning. The tree has thick, dark green foliage in the warmer months, but is most known for its brilliant mix of red, orange and yellow colors in autumn.
“It’s going to provide shade for our gaga ball area,” said Parks and Recreation Director Missy Orosz. “We thought this would be a good area, because the gaga ball court was just put in and children and families will be enjoying it for years to come.”
The gaga ball pit was built and donated to the town for Boy Scout Noah Malewicki’s Eagle Project last summer. The tree was donated by Tim O’Donnell, a Parks and Recreation Commission member and owner of O’Donnell Landscaping in Monroe.
Orosz, First Selectman Ken Kellogg, Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Jonathan Stone and Human Resources Director Craig Hirsch attended Friday morning’s ceremony.
“One of the things we’re really proud of in Monroe is that we’ve been recognized several years in a row as a Tree City USA community,” Kellogg said. “It’s possible through the hard work of people in town and Missy has taken over that effort. It’s finding the right tree for the right place in our community.”
Monroe’s annual Arbor Day celebration used to be organized by Park Ranger David Solek, the town’s longtime tree warden, who recently retired.
In 1976, the Arbor Day Foundation launched its Tree City USA program, providing direction, assistance and national recognition for its designees. It includes a framework for a healthy, sustainable urban forestry program in communities.
Through Solek’s efforts, Monroe attained Tree City USA status in 2004. As of 2021, Monroe was one of only 16 Connecticut communities to be granted Tree City USA status.
The first selectman read a proclamation recognizing how J. Sterling Morton made a proposal to the Nebraska Board of Agriculture in 1872 that a special day be set aside for the planting of trees, leading to over a million trees being planted in the state and the establishment of Arbor Day as an international day.
Kellogg noted how trees can reduce erosion of topsoil, cut heating and cooling costs, moderate the temperature, clean the air, produce “life-giving” oxygen and provide habitat for wildlife.
He said trees are a renewable resource, providing the raw material for paper, wood for homes and fuel for fires, while beautifying the community and providing a source of “joy and spiritual renewal.”
“Now therefore, I, Kenneth M. Kellogg, first selectman of the town of Monroe, Connecticut, do hereby proclaim April 29, 2022 as Arbor Day in the town of Monroe and I urge all citizens to celebrate Arbor Day and support efforts to protect our trees and woodlands,” Kellogg said.
After the ceremony, Monroe Parks and Recreation employees Jack Eck, a park maintainer, and John Bevis, a skilled laborer, cut away the pot the tree was in, hoisted it up and lowered it into a hole, before packing it into place with topsoil.
The tree can grow as tall as 70 feet.