SEAGROVE — More than 75 volunteers showed up to plant trees Saturday for the “Picnic & Planting for the Polar Bears” at H. Clay Presnell Memorial Park on Old Plank Road in Seagrove.
The event was sponsored by Trees Seagrove and Acres for the Atmosphere in connection with the N.C. Zoo. Volunteers arrived at 8 a.m. and planted 130 trees before they finished up around 4 p.m.
The event included an educational booth about polar bears, food and refreshments for volunteers and live music performed by Eck McCanless. Trees NC provided the food and refreshments from the concession stand in the park, operated by Carolina Bats. Proceeds will go toward management of the park.
People of all ages from Seagrove, Asheboro and neighboring communities helped with the planting. Kane Martinez of Asheboro, who is 13, was one of the youngest volunteers. He planted 14 trees Saturday.
“I volunteered because I want to help save the planet and protect Seagrove from greenhouse gases,” said Martinez.
Trees for the event were provided by Trees Seagrove and Acres for the Atmosphere through fundraisers, grants from Randolph Friends of the Zoo and the American Association of Zoo Keepers, and through the generosity of Green Biz and Gilmore Plant & Bulb Co. Inc.
Trees Seagrove and Acres for the Atmosphere representatives said they held the event for several reasons, one of which was to help reduce the carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere that cause global warming.
According to the Polar Bears International (PBI) web site (www.polarbearsinternational.org), global warming causes sea ice to melt, which threatens the polar bear habitat; it reduces the bears’ hunting season and can leave them stranded on land.
Acres for the Atmosphere was created by graduates of the 2009 PBI Zoo Keeper Leadership Camp. The program works with chapters of the American Association of Zoo Keepers, zoos throughout North America and PBI Arctic Ambassador Centers. They plant trees and help educate the public about the environmental benefits of planting trees.
One of those graduates, Marissa Krouse, is a zoo keeper at the N.C. Zoo. According to Krouse, each chapter of Acres for the Atmosphere tries to plant an acre of trees each year.
“Most of the things we do to combat climate change also benefit us,” said Krouse.
The benefits of planting trees in urban environments include improved water quality, reduced energy use, diverse wildlife habitats, and increased quality of life for residents, according to a news release from the USDA Forest Service.
Education was a big part of the “Picnic & Planting.” Seagrove Elementary School students participated in a poster contest before the event about the role trees play in combating global warming. Contest winners had trees planted in their names. Polar bear-shaped plaques — created by potter Bonnie Burns, who is also a member of Trees Seagrove — mark the locations of these trees.
Children and adults were invited to learn more about polar bears and conservation efforts from Melinda Prior, a member of the N.C. Zoo’s education department, at the zoo’s “All About Polar Bears” booth.
Community involvement also played a big role in the planting. Trees Seagrove is a community branch of Trees NC, which was founded as Trees Asheboro seven years ago by Owen George and Tim Womick. The goal of the organization, which has expanded to include local branches like the one in Seagrove, is to have citizens work together as tree advocates in their communities, according to the web site, www.treesnc.org. Trees NC.
Before the event, Trees Seagrove member Mike Walker dug holes for trees with a backhoe. Volunteers planted more than 20 varieties of trees.
“We needed something to bring the town together and I feel like this is a great start,” said volunteer Katherine Hewitt of Seagrove. “This is good for people in Seagrove. They can be proud of what they’ve done today.”
“There’s nothing as fulfilling as planting trees,” said Burns, “and seeing the neighborhood turn out for the future of our children.”
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Information about volunteering or starting a community branch of Trees NC can be found at www.treesnc.org. Information about volunteering for Acres for the Atmosphere can be found at www.polarbearsinternational.org or http://aazk.org.
Courtesy of The Courier-Tribune
By Rhonda McCanless