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Camden’s Arbor Day honors first responders

Posted: November 8, 2013 4:27 p.m.
Updated: November 13, 2013 5:00 a.m.

The city of Camden hosted an Arbor Day celebration Friday honoring the city’s first responders.

The city planted two Cherry Bark Oak trees in honor of the Camden Police Department (CPD) and the Camden Fire Department. Camden Urban Forester Liz Gilland said the oak trees are native to South Carolina, but are rarely planted. The trees can grow as tall as 80 feet, she said.

Chaplain K.J. Lewis, of Midlands Crisis Chaplaincy, and S.C. State Firefighters Association’s Executive Director Joe Palmer spoke in honor of the two agencies. Camden Elementary School (CES) students sang two songs while playing a variety of wooden instruments during the event. Camden Mayor Tony Scully made remarks, addressed mostly to the CES students and read the city’s proclamation. Scully told the audience that the community needs to preserve Camden’s trees because they won’t last forever. The first responders protect the community, but the community also needs to support them, Scully said. It’s not just the jobs or the infrastructure that keep people in Camden, it’s the surroundings, he said.

“Camden would not be Camden without its history; Camden would not be Camden without its horses; and Camden would not be Camden without its trees,” Scully said. “Trees are an essential community resource.”

One hundred and forty-one years ago, a Nebraska resident named J. Sterling Morton thought the world would benefit from more trees, Scully said. Morton and his community planted 1 million trees on Arbor Day in 1872 now the day is celebrated in various countries around the world. Scully emphasized to about the power of one idea to the CES students. Scully then proclaimed Friday, Nov. 8 as Arbor Day, noting that many people forget that their livelihoods comes from trees. Trees help reduce erosion, affect climate, act as habitats to other animals, create instruments and a host of other resources, Scully said. He encouraged everyone to plant a tree Friday as they play an important role in the community.

The city has previously celebrated Arbor Day on the first Friday of December, Gilland said, but because Thanksgiving fell late in the month this year, they decided to observe the holiday during November.

A history book on Morton indicated he was a journalist and editor at a newspaper in Nebraska, so he was able to spread information about agriculture quite easily, according to the Arbor Day Foundation’s website. He also encouraged others to get involved. Many states observe Arbor Day on the last Friday of April, according to the website, but many states recognize the day during the best tree planting season.

Palmer informed the audience that the widely recognized Morton Salt and Argo corn starch products were both created by Morton’s son.

Lewis read the policeman’s prayer and talked about how he became chaplain for the CPD in 2000. Lewis said soon after he became chaplain, a CPD officer was killed, causing devastation throughout the department. Lewis recounted the experience of that time and said he saw the heart of CPD in that tragedy:

“Camden, you are much blessed to have these officers watching over you,” he said.

Palmer spoke next, telling the audience that he has also seen his share of “losses” working as a first responder. Just like the loss of human life, forests are losing a variety of trees such as Dogwoods and Elms, he said.

Camden Parks and Trees Commission Chair Deborah Davis said this was the best Arbor Day yet.

She and Gilland said the children usually steal the show.

In addition to CES, members of the Camden Tree Foundation, Camden Military Academy, Camden Parks and Trees Commission, the city of Camden and Camden Streets Department all helped create the event.

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