Although Arbor Day is commerorated nationally on the last Friday in April, states have the flexibility to observe the day at their discretion.
In Georgia, the observance has been moved up by more than two months to the third Friday in February to accommodate an earlier planting season.
Arbor Day was celebrated Friday in St. Marys with the planting of a live oak at Howard Gilman Waterfront Park downtown.
Francis Smith, a member of the St. Marys Tree Board, said the new live oak in the park replaces one planted several years ago that didn’t survive.
“We’ve been planning this a long time and there’s no way we would miss this,” Smith told a crowd of more than 30 people on a blustery, chilly day.
St. Marys is recognized as a tree city because of the canopy of live oaks lining many of the residential streets downtown, she said. The goal is to protect existing trees and add more.
“Trees represent a hope for a better future,” Smith said. “We hope to continue this tradition for another 150 years.”
Mayor John Morrissey read an Arbor Day proclamation and explained the importance of trees to the city.
“We look at these live oaks. We’re famous for them and continue to nurture them,” he said.
After the speeches, the winners of an essay contest about the benefits of trees in St. Marys were given plaques. The essays were written by public school students and showed they understand the importance of trees in a coastal town like St. Marys that goes beyond aesthetics, said Linda Williams, former St. Marys City Council member and retired English teacher.
Williams, who helped present the awards, praised the effort by the winners.
“These students did a remarkable job,” she said. “They did lots of research.”