Friday marked Arbor Day in Georgia and the 19th Arbor Day celebration for the city of Covington. This year's celebration was held at Turner Lake Recreation Complex.
Covington Tree Board President Loy Summers greeted guests and Covington Mayor Kim Carter related a story about realizing the aesthetic quality of trees while on business in El Paso. She said she quickly grew weary of red, dusty landscapes scantily dotted with cacti.
"I had to come back home," Carter said. "I couldn't take that job."
This year's memorial tree presentation was in remembrance of Ron Carter, a beloved local banker and dedicated member of the Newton County Recreation Commission.
"Ron was always the first to step up and say I want to be a part of that," said Rec Department Director Tommy Hailey.
Newton County Senior Services Director Josephine Kelly also said that Carter never told her no when she requested financial or volunteer support.
"The best part about it is he always did it with a smile and a pat on the shoulder. He always said ‘you're doing a good job, keep it up and come see me when you need more.'" Brown said.
Reed Beard, president of United Bank in Covington, told the audience a story he felt typified Carter's spirit. One day a man with very poor credit came into the bank seeking a loan. Beard told Carter the man's profile was pretty rough and he would likely default on his loans.
"He simply said, ‘he'll pay me,'" Beard said. Carter was right - the man paid back every cent.
"He brought the best out of everybody," Beard said.
The large crowd then gathered outside for the dedication of the sugar maple planted near the lake in Carter's memory.
John Presley, chairman of the recreation board, read the plaque as Carter's family gathered around it.
"I hope it will grow as straight and strong as Ron was," Presley said.
Back inside the meeting room, Marshall Ginn presented the Tree Steward Award on behalf of the Tree Preservation Board to Keep Covington/Newton Beautiful and businesses that participated in a planting project along U.S. Highway 278.
County Arborist Debbie Bell presented an excellence in tree planting recognition to Mansfield Elementary for the school's "Made in the Shade" program. Mansfield teacher Alicia Lindsey explained how the school was awarded a Georgia Forestry Commission Grant to plant trees on the school's program not only for beautification, but also to make the playground more comfortable in the warmer months.
The project was a collaboration of the school, GFC, Bartlett Tree Experts, the Service Guild of Covington, Newton County Public Works, parents and community members. She said 40 trees were planted and are thriving. Temperatures between open-sun and shaded areas on the playground have been measured up to 20 degrees different, according to Lindsey.
GFC Community Forester Beryl Budd awarded Mayor Kim Carter Covington's 18th Tree City USA Award as well as awarded Snapping Shoals EMC with a Tree Line USA Award on behalf of the Arbor Day Foundation. He explained that for many years the Service Guild of Covington has sponsored the purchase of 500 seedlings to disperse in the community free of charge. Attendees of Friday's celebration went home with either a bald cypress, dogwood or wax myrtle seedling.
Bell and KCNB Executive Director Connie Waller talked about 2009 plantings at Exit 90 and in Fairview Estates as part of a collaboration with Home Depot in the NeighborWoods Program. The city of Covington planted more than 100 trees in 2009 and KCNB plans to plant more trees in front of the Newton County Judicial Center in honor of city and county elected officials. Several projects using American Reinvestment and Recovery Act and Alliance for Community Trees grant funds are planned for 2010.
Bell said the theme of the city's celebration was "creating a legacy." She remembered her mother planting a pecan tree when she was small. She said she still drives by their old home and checks on the tree from time to time.
"When you plant a tree, you create something you can remember through your life and share with your children and hopefully, your grandchildren," Bell said.