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Lancaster county celebrates arbor day

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By Denyse Clark

Throughout the county, schools, parks and community organizations paused to observe Arbor Day on Friday, Dec. 6. At McDonald Green Elementary School, students and staff along with county council members and a Lancaster Soil and Water Conservation representative, planted a Weeping Willow tree in the school’s courtyard. 

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The school’s chorus sang, “Colors of the Wind,” from the Disney movie, “Pocahontas” and the poem, “The Heart of the Tree,” was read. 

The Friends of Andrew Jackson State Park held a celebration at the Andrew Jackson State Park Museum where a program on the value of heritage trees was presented by Laura Ledford. 

In keeping with the S.C. Garden Clubs’ theme, “Inherit the Past: Create the Future,” a heritage tree was donated to the park. 

At Olde Presbyterian Church Cultural Arts Center on West Gay Street, the Lancaster Garden Club held its dedication for “Pinky,” a pink, flowering dogwood tree which they say will “add beauty” to the historic cemetery for years to come.

A group of about 30 attended this half-hour dedication on Lancaster’s proclaimed Arbor Day, always held the first Friday in December. After the welcome by Lancaster Garden Club President Deanna Hungerford, club chaplain Karen Neely read “The Prayer of the Woods.” The poem’s author is unknown.

“I am the heat of your hearth on the cold winter nights, the friendly shade screening you from the summer sun, and my fruits are refreshing draughts quenching your thirst as you journey on. I am the beam that holds your house, the board of your table, the bed on which you lie, and the timber that builds your boat. I am the handle of your hoe, the door of your homestead, the wood of your cradle, and the shell of your coffin. I am the bread of kindness and the flower of beauty. ‘Ye who pass by, listen to my prayer: Harm me not,” she read poignantly.

Almost simultaneously, church bells rang in the background as Neely prayed. Lancaster Mayor Joe Shaw commended garden club members for their contributions to beautify the local area. Recently, the city was honored with a “Tree City USA” award from the National Arbor Day Foundation that recognized the municipality’s long-standing commitment to urban forestry.

“We have Arbor Day because of you,” Shaw told the garden club. “We’ve been a ‘Tree City’ for 21 year. I don’t think we’d have achieved that without you.”

Shaw  then read the proclamation which included, “Whereas, in 1872 J. Sterling Morton proposed to the Nebraska Board of Agriculture that a special day be set aside for the planting of trees … and whereas, trees, wherever they are planted, are a source of joy and spiritual renewal; Now therefore, I Joe M. Shaw, Mayor of the City of Lancaster, S.C. Do hereby proclaim Friday, Dec. 6, 2013, as Arbor Day in the City of Lancaster.”

Lancaster city attorney Mitch Norrell sang a beautiful rendition of “I Believe,” co-written by Ervin Drake, Irvin Graham, Jimmy Shirl and Al Stillman in 1953.

“I believe for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows; I believe that somewhere in the darkest night a candle glows; I believe for everyone who goes astray, someone will come to show the way, I believe, I believe. I believe above the storm the smallest prayer will still be heard; I believe that someone in the great somewhere hears every word; Every time I hear a newborn baby cry, or touch a leaf or see the sky; Then I know why, I believe.”

Local historian Lindsay Pettus thanked the garden club for the dogwood tree which he said will be a home for 45 species of birds that will eat of its seeds and flowers.

“Thanks to the Lancaster Garden Club, today, we add much beauty to our Olde Presbyterian cemetery,” he said. “Arbor Day is planting a tree that is a blessing for the future. I believe Heaven and earth will plant he or she that plants a tree.”

As the dedication of “Pinky” concluded, Hungerford left lingering words.

“We hope those who enter the hallowed ground of this hallowed place will enjoy the beauty for years to come,” she said.