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City, students celebrate Arbor Day with tree planting
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Pitman High School landscaping students help Turlock city staff celebrate Arbor Day by planting sycamore trees at Rose Circle Park.

Leaf it to Turlock to celebrate Arbor Day with a bang.

Noted as a Tree City USA for 21 years – a designation given only to the tree-friendliest of cities – Turlock commemorated the 140th international Arbor Day on Friday.

“Arbor Day is an annual observance that celebrates the role of trees in our lives and supports tree planting and care,” explained Turlock employee Scott Hagerstrom.

This year, the City of Turlock planted 16 sycamore trees in Rose Circle Park to mark Arbor Day. The little-known park, located in the center of a roundabout on Memory Lane near Geer Road, offers shady pergolas and comfortable benches.

“This park is one of the best-kept secrets in Turlock,” said Turlock Mayor John Lazar. “It’s a wonderful atmosphere out here … it’s a beautiful, beautiful location and I’m sure the sycamores will enhance the park very much.”

But trees previously planted had grown at a dangerous angle and needed to be replaced, making Rose Circle Park an ideal location for this year’s Arbor Day tree planting.

On Friday, city staff partnered with landscaping students from Pitman High School to plant the sycamores. Students dug holes, broke up root balls, lifted trees into place, and staked the trees to ensure they grow up strong.

Sycamores can live for a century or more, reaching heights of 100 feet.

“They are the heartiest of all the trees we have out there,” said Turlock employee Wayne Rogers. “… Out here, these things are going to just thrive.”

The event carried on the tradition of Arbor Day, first held on April 10, 1872 in Nebraska City. On that fateful day, Julius Sterling Morton, a Nebraska newspaper editor who later served as President Grover Cleveland's Secretary of Agriculture, organized a city-wide planting effort where more than 1 million trees were planted.

The basic precepts of Arbor Day are just as relevant 140 years later, Lazar said, when being green is more important than ever.

“We are so, so happy to enjoy this day with our citizens,” Lazar said.