Columbia County's efforts to preserve greenspace and trees were honored Friday with the county's official designation as a Tree City USA community.
At a tree planting ceremony at the county's Memorial Gardens to mark Arbor Day, Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross said the site was an example of the community's efforts to maintain natural areas for the public.
"This venue is just amazing in its compatibility to what we are doing" to promote greenspace, he said. County leaders and Keep Columbia County Beautiful members hailed the Tree City USA designation as recognition of the community's dedication to trees and land conservation.
To qualify for Tree City USA recognition, a community must establish a tree board, have tree preserving ordinances in place, spend $2 per capita on urban community forestry endeavors and conduct annual Arbor Day observances, said Barry Smith, the county's director of community and leisure services.
Dan Whitehead, the keynote speaker for the event and a past president of the Georgia Urban Forest Council, said God gave man two instructions: to propagate and to be good stewards of the Earth.
"This is a labor of love to get to this point," said Mr. Whitehead, a manager of Moon's Tree Farm, in Loganville, Ga. "It's a milestone to this community."
He said caring for the environment is the start to making the community a better place.
"The thing that will change this community is sharing more," he said. "There's nothing else that ties us together like the environment."
After a song performed by kindergartners from Evans Elementary School about trees, county leaders and greenspace officials ceremoniously turned dirt on a red maple tree planted in honor of the occasion.
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