The city of Camden, Camden Parks and Trees Commission and Camden Tree Foundation celebrated Arbor Day on Nov. 7 at the National Steeplechase Museum in Camden. The event honored Geraldine “Gerry” McBryde, a Kirkover Hills resident who many say is responsible for beautifying that subdivision by planting flowers, plants and trees in the area.
Newly-elected Camden City Councilwoman Deborah Davis, currently chair of the Camden Parks and Trees Commission opened the celebration by explaining the meaning and history of Arbor Day. The first such celebration took place in April 1872 in Nebraska.
“Nebraska’s first Arbor Day was an amazing success,” Davis said. “More than 1 million trees were planted. A second Arbor Day took place in 1884 and the young state made it an annual legal holiday in 1885. Today, all 50 states proclaim Arbor Day. At the federal level, in 1970, President Richard Nixon then proclaimed the last Friday in April as National Arbor Day. Different states have it at different times because of climates.”
Davis said Arbor Day and similar celebrations have spread around the world to Australia, Japan, Israel, Korea, Yugoslavia, Iceland and India.
Camden Mayor Tony Scully drew laughs as he rapidly read a long list of the many benefits and products trees provide.
“A community’s trees and gardens are usually the first impression that a visitor to the community sees. They’re an extension of our pride and our community spirit. According to the Arbor Day Foundation, trees are a stimulus to economic development, attracting new businesses and tourism,” Scully said. “Real estate values increase (more than) 20 percent when trees beautify a property or a neighborhood.”
Mary Catherine Norwood specifically lauded McBryde’s contributions to Kirkover Hills, whose north entrance is across Knights Hill Road from the Steeplechase Museum.
“I guarantee you, if she’s not working at the gate, she’s out in her yard working,” Norwood said. “Gerry has been part of a group working in Camden since she moved into the neighborhood. I cannot imagine when she was not involved.”
Students from Camden Elementary School were part of the program, as choral groups sang “Autumn Vibe” and a smaller group of 4th graders performed a medley of poems delivered in a “rap/hip-hop” style. Camden Military Academy’s color guard also attended to place flags in the room.
Camden Urban Forester Liz Gilland closed the presentation by dedicating five Japanese flowering apricot trees she said will bloom in mid-February. Gilland said the Camden Tree Foundation donated the trees. She, too, praised McBryde for her decades of effort.
“It’s amazing what one person can do. We will not make you work today in planting the trees, that’s already been done,” she said.
McBryde said she enjoys working with trees and plants and was grateful for the recognition.
“I said ‘why are they doing that?’ I just do what I love to do,” McBryde said.