Fort Yargo announces annual Arbor Day planting

WINDER -- Anyone with an interest in joining the ubiquitous "green" movement -- and with three hours to spare on a Saturday morning -- might consider dropping by Fort Yargo State Park on Arbor Day.

The Winder park's annual Arbor Day tree planting will begin at 9 a.m. Feb. 20. The planting should wrap up by noon, officials said.

The free event is open to the public. Trees are provided, but other essentials should be brought from home.

Chief among them: shovels and gloves.

Last year, volunteers plugged about 50 small trees and bundles of seedlings in strategic spots around the 1,800-acre park. In the long-run, the mass planting is an effort to replace lost trees and add needed shade for the sweltering days of summer.

The nature-friendly event has gained popularity in recent years.

In 2008, 65 volunteers donated the Saturday morning to plant another 50 trees. Specimens included red oak and saw tooth oak trees, which stand from six- to 10-feet tall, near the beach pavilion, a picnic area, and in Camp Will-a-way, a children's sanctuary.

The park's circa 1792 log fort is adorned with crabapples thanks to Arbor Day volunteers.

The big dig started in the early 1990s to combat an outbreak of pine beetles. In recent years, Fort Yargo had lost trees to deer, more pine beetles and a rogue tornado -- spawned by Hurricane Katrina -- that ripped several thousand specimens from the park in 2005.

Park officials say controlled hunting has helped keep the deer population in check, while the bugs and freak wind tunnels have hit elsewhere.

The not-for-profit Friends of Fort Yargo typically raises money through fundraisers to buy the trees. The volunteer group strives to enhance Fort Yargo through service, activities and advocacy.

New to last year's gathering was a ceremony in which five trees were dedicated to people instrumental in starting or sustaining Fort Yargo.

Park officials eventually hope to have planted trees in honor of every Fort Yargo dignitary, officials said.