By Aila Boyd

Buchanan didn’t let the rain stop it from holding its 12th annual Arbor Day Celebration last Friday.

The celebration was held at the Town Park where three tents were set up to allow town residents to “plant the seeds of tomorrow today.”

This isn’t our worst weather for Arbor Day,” Harry Gleason, community development planner for the town, said, adding that there was an ice storm during the ceremony two years earlier. He noted that fortunately, the weather has been cooperative for most of the celebrations.

The annual celebration is conducted as part of the Tree City USA program, which is administered by the Arbor Day Foundation. According to the foundation’s website, the program started in 1976. Since then, more than 3,400 communities have committed to being part of the program. Salem, Roanoke City, Roanoke County, and Vinton are also part of the Tree City USA program.

The requirements for being part of the Tree City USA program include the maintaining of a tree board or department, having a community tree ordinance, spending at least $2 per capita on urban forestry, and celebrating Arbor Day.

A ceremonial planting of a tree in the Town Park was done following the unveiling of the Buchanan Arbor Day Donor’s Plaque. The plaque was unveiled by Jason Tyree, the town manager of Buchanan, and Len Miller, who has attended more Buchanan Arbor Day Celebrations than anyone else.

I just want to thank everyone for coming out on this beautiful rainy day,” Tyree said.

Mayor Craig Bryant started his speech by thanking Gleason, who coordinated the event. Bryant noted that Gleason was “soaking wet” from setting up the tents that were used during the ceremony, adding that a gallon of water could be wrung out of his shirt.

He explained that trees have long since been synonymous with the Town of Buchanan and were specifically protected in some of the earliest rules set forth when the town was established in the 1800s. Paintings by 19th century artists Lewis Miller and Edward Beyer of the town prominently feature trees, as well as early photographs of the town.

Efforts to repopulate the trees in Buchanan were started in the 1960s after many of the older trees had died and others had been cut down in order to widen Main Street in the 1940s, he said.

As these tiny trees started to grow, so too did their beauty, which caused the community to start thinking about how to beautify the town,” Bryant said. “By 2007, the interest grew to the point that the downtown revitalization program initiated the first Arbor Day Celebration.”

Bryant explained that a request for money was made to the public to fund the first Abor Day Celebration, resulting in $3,650 being raised.

Over the past 22 years, he said, 240 trees have been planted in Buchanan.

Stressing the importance of trees, Bryant explained that they reduce pollution, provide shelter from the sun, reduce soil erosion, conserve energy, block ultraviolet rays, create economic opportunities, provide wildlife habitats, reduce noise, and bring people together.

He noted that several people from the Philippines recently visited the town and had “marveled at the beauty of the trees.”

A representative from the Virginia Department of Forestry, Joe Boswell, was on hand and spoke about the Tree City USA program.

I’m probably the oddball here in that I’m happy that it’s raining,” Boswell said jokingly. “Trees love rain. This is the time of year to plant trees. Millions of them have been planted across the state of Virginia and without the rains of spring time, they wouldn’t have a chance.”

He went on to present Gleason with a special sticker to commemorate the 12 years that Buchanan has been part of the Tree City USA program.

That 12 years represents a lot of hard work and careful planning led by Harry,” he said, adding that volunteers and town employees have also been instrumental in the annual Arbor Day events.

Gleason explained that one of the things that has always surprised him has been the community’s concern about trees despite the fact that Buchanan is a rural community that is steadfast in its protection of the rights of property owners. He noted that since the beginning of his tenure in Buchanan, he has received many calls from citizens who have wanted to stop people from “butchering trees.”

People really cared about the trees in the community,” he said.

Gleason explained that some of the trees that have been planted are meant to only live for a short amount of time, while others are intended to live for 75 to 100 years. Some of the trees are even intended to live between 200 and 400 years.

Hopefully we will continue to see generations have an appreciation and love for trees in our community,” he said. “We’re really at a transition point for our community. A lot of the older residents who have planted trees and donated money have passed away, so now we’re really at the new generation. We’re hoping that they will have the same appreciation.”

Trees planted on the Town Park will not only provide beauty and shade for future generations, they will help absorb and slow down precipitation and filter it before it reaches the James River, thereby helping to reduce potential erosion into the James River,” reads a statement about the celebration on the town’s website.