The Committee got its start when Carol Lambert, then affiliated with local radio station WATH AM/WXTQ FM, realized that there were a number of resource agencies (Ohio Division of Forestry, Soil Conservation Service, U.S. Forest Service) doing radio spots on various topics but were not really talking to each other. Carol suggested that these agencies, as well as other interested groups, get together to explore ways to improve the local environment. Currently membership numbers about 18 people. Thus, was born, the Athens County Arbor Day committee.
The Athens County Garden Club, which is affiliated with the Ohio Association of Garden Clubs, has been instrumental in promoting tree planting with particular emphasis on the Johnny Appleseed Memorial Highway and Park plantings. A representative of the Garden Club is a member of the Athens County Arbor Day Committee.
The Committee is also composed of professional foresters, local government employees, a sawmill operator, Ohio University faculty, and citizens interested in tree planting. It organizes planting efforts during the spring and fall and plants both seedlings and larger balled and burlap (B & B) trees. Publicly owned sites are chosen based upon their need for trees to reduce pollution and improve aesthetic quality. Being in a coal mining region there are ample opportunities for planting on former reclaimed and unreclaimed strip mines. Other areas are highway cuts that cry out for something green and oxygen giving.
Volunteers are gathered from the community, Ohio University students and faculty, and Hocking College. The Ohio Department of Transportation and County Engineer donate signs, vests, planting bars, and heavy equipment when needed. Buses are provided by the County and colleges. Food is donated by area restaurants. Expertise is provided by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), and the U.S. Forest Service(USFS), the Soil Conservation Service (SCS), the Athens Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), and area nurserymen. Volunteer fire departments bring bulk water to remote sites where large trees are planted. The level of cooperation is remarkable, leading to hundred of people out planting trees at several sits during spring and fall weekends.
The Arbor Day Committee operates with a fairly small budget. Money from one fund raising drive went to purchase balled trees for a highway site. A $750 grant from The Athens Foundation went to the same site. An $1,850 grant from the city of Athens bought trees for planting at another highway site in December, 1991. Seedlings in the spring area donated by ODNR-Division of Reclamation, USFS, and SWCD. The trees donated by the Forest Service were planted on Forest Service land. The only dollar expenses are for trees, topsoil (when needed), mulch, and paper and postage. Twice the Committee has assisted with decorating downtown Athens with balled trees during the holiday season. These trees are later planted in areas needing trees in and around the city.
The results of the Committee's work are tress being planted in neglected areas that otherwise would not have them and an increased awareness about all the benefits that our leafy friends provide.
The Athens County Arbor Day Committee began its work in 1989 centering its efforts around Arbor Day. However, the group soon found that Arbor Day need not be recognized only once a year, but that it can be a year around effort. Thus, every day is Arbor Day in Athens County.