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City Beautiful gets a jump on Arbor Day, honors “Lil Bit”

Nationally, Arbor Day will be celebrated on Friday, April 26, 2024, this year but the garden clubs in Laurel, the state’s longest standing Arbor Day Foundation Tree City, have already been hard at work to ensure that the city remains beautiful.

On Friday, February 9, at 1 p.m., members of the Park Place Garden Club planted a Nutall Oak in Gardiner Park in honor of Mississippi Arbor Day.

Why the disconnect? While Arbor Day is recognized nationally in April, a proclamation by Governor Tate Reeves moved the celebration in Mississippi up to the second Friday in February to encourage Mississippians to plant trees toward the final weeks of winter. According to Mississippi Forestry Commission State Forester Russell Bozeman, doing so “helps the young trees focus on putting down roots.”

The Park Place Garden Club was formed in 1929 to maintain and beautify Gardiner Park. They chose to plant a Nuttall Oak in the park this year because it is a fast-growing oak that makes a great shade tree and is indigenous to the area. It is important to promote indigenous tree plantings because such trees are best adapted to the area’s soils and climate, require less maintenance, and critical for area wildlife.

In addition to naming February 9 as Mississippi’s Arbor Day, Governor Reeves also designated the week of February 9 through February 15 as Tree Planting Week across the state.

On Tuesday, February 13 at 9 a.m. the Laurel Garden Club, whose members maintain Euclid Park, celebrated the state’s Arbor Day and Tree Planting Week by planting five trees in the park including a live oak in memory of Laurel’s longtime Parks and Recreation Supervisor, Rejeana “Lil Bit” Loper.

They were joined by 6th grade students from St. John’s and members of Loper’s family including her mother, Dianne Golden, and son, Anthony Smith. Golden and Smith were moved by the show of support and tender remembrances of Loper and encouraged everyone to schedule their annual cancer screenings and raise awareness about the importance of early detection.

Whether you take a day in February or April to enjoy the natural beauty of trees, and perhaps plant a few yourself, make sure that you do. As the proverb states, “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second-best time is now.”

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