Ambitious park project keeps Mexico on top of Tree City list

Ambitious park project keeps Mexico on top of Tree City list
Parks Department director Chad Shoemaker and the Forestry Department's Jay Eicher plant a tree in Green Estate Park on Friday, one of 11,000 the city has planted at the site. Mexico has the state's longest consecutive Tree City USA designation. [Dave Faries]
Dave Faries

Chad Shoemaker and Jay Eicher planted a tree on Friday.

They had a purpose. It was Arbor Day in Mexico and a few city dignitaries had gathered in Green Estate Park to recognize the tradition.

But the location chosen was significant. On March 27, James Branson spearheaded a tree planting effort in the park for his Eagle Scout project. Some 600 seedlings – 500 redbud and 100 Schumard oak – went into the ground.

The city’s Parks & Recreation Department expects 125 whitebud and Appalachian Red seedlings to arrive this week, again destined for Green Estate Park.

Over the past few years, 11,000 redbud trees alone have been planted around the 92-acre park’s grounds.

“The goal is to slowly and steadily plant more so we have all kinds of colors,” explained Shoemaker, who serves as Parks & Recreation director. “There are few things that change the landscape so much.”

Redbuds are known for their attractive rose-colored petals. Typically blossoming in April, the trees explode in shades of pink and light purple. Whitebuds bloom like clouds.

Shoemaker and Eicher, of the Mexico Forestry Department, tracked down the Appalachian Red variety for a reason, as well.

“They are really bright,” Shoemaker said. “Think of a bright pink azalea.”

The young trees will not put on a show for several years. But the hope is that as the trees mature, the colorful springtime display will attract visitors to the city.

Mexico has the longest active Tree City USA designation in Missouri, spanning 41 consecutive years. To achieve the status a city must keep a tree ordinance in place, have a dedicated advisory board, spend at least $2 per capita on urban forestry and hold an annual Arbor Day celebration.

On Friday the city’s Mayor, Dr. Ayana Shivers, read Mexico’s Arbor Day proclamation before the honorary tree planting. Angela George represented the Missouri Department of Conservation and recognized Mexico’s Tree City standing.

The ceremony was brief. But the trees that continue to be planted may be around for decades.

For Shoemaker, the legacy is important. The department worked with scouts on the most recent planting. Before that, Missouri Military Academy students helped with the effort.
He points out that many of the young people involved spoke of returning one day to see their trees.

“That makes it cool, too,” he said.


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