Arbor Day: Sanibel Continues Its Commitment To Trees

by SC Reporter Ariadna Ampudia

The City of Sanibel played host to Arbor Day on Friday, Jan. 21, at the Community Park Preserve on Periwinkle Way. The event was done in person, outdoors, with a no-contact option for those who attended.

Arbor Day is a holiday celebrated nationally in which people are encouraged to plant trees. The annual celebration returns to the island this year to honor the former city manager, Judie Zimomra, as hosted by the vegetation committee in the previous years.

Sanibel Conservation Officer Veronica Runge said Arbor Day means more than simply planting trees. It gives residents the opportunity to participate or join the “harmony” between nature and its people, she said.

“The Sanibel community ardently believes the critical habitat for wildlife, such as trees, should extend to our backyards so we are a part of the ecosystem, instead of being separated from nature,” said Runge.

During a meeting held by the Sanibel Vegetation Committee in January, member Phyllis Gresham volunteered to represent and speak on behalf of the committee.

For the Arbor Day celebration, a program was created, which included a dedication to Zimomra, program participants, contest winners and literature containing native plants, said Pam Miller, a vegetation committee member.

“Everything looks like it’s going ahead like a Swiss watch,” said Vegetation Committee Member Philip Marks during the January meeting.

After much turmoil in finding a tree, the committee ultimately decided to plant a Sweetbay Magnolia tree. The tree will attract swallowtail butterflies, a request made by Zimomra herself.

One hundred free seedlings of the Magnolia tree were also given out to the first 100 people who attended the celebration. City liaison and vegetation committee member Dana Dettmar said taking adequate care of the tree is a top priority before the “rainy season” kicks in, so the plant can be sustained throughout the rest of the year.

Contrast to the national holiday observed by various countries on April 29, Arbor Day is celebrated on Jan. 21 in Florida.

Dettmar said that is because most trees native to Florida are described to be “dormant,” or not actively growing. It is best to plant them at another point in time instead of April. Planting trees while dormant allows them to lose water from its leaves, ultimately “decreasing” their chances for survival in the springtime, she added.

The city hosted two contests in conjunction with the Arbor Day celebration for The Sanibel School pupils, a coloring and essay writing contest. The essay contest was extended to all Sanibel youth rather than students only, committee members mentioned in the their meeting.

Unfortunately, due to the surge of COVID-19 cases, The Sanibel School was not able to participate in the event as a field trip, committee members reported. However, winners were chosen by a member of the Vegetation Committee before later receiving prizes at The Sanibel Recreation Center.

The drawing contest winners were kindergartner Liliana Werner, first-grader Nolan Kopp, and second-grader Nevaeh Moore. The winner of the coloring contest was third-grader Elise Martinez. The essay contestant winners were Emma Murray, fourth grade, and Miles Baker, fifth grade.

“All winners are now displayed in the lobby (of the Recreation Center),” said Rec. Center Program Coordinator Gabrielle Cooper Angeles.

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