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Students plant trees at Paperjack

Tim Ryle, a fourth-grader from Starr Elementary, investigates the roots of a bareroot tree during a demonstration by Ruth Hilfiker, horticulture educator with UW-Extension.

Predictions of rain on Friday had Joe Kerlin up all night.

Kerlin, New Richmond director of parks and recreation, is responsible for planning the annual Arbor Day celebration for local fourth-graders.

On Friday, April 30, the weather held out as hundreds of fourth-graders made their way to Paperjack Park at the corner of Bilmar Avenue and East 11th Street.

Students were greeted with about an hour of demonstrations where they learned how to prune, identify and plant trees. At about 11 a.m., the kids got to put their new knowledge to the test when each class planted a tree in the park.

The grand finale, and clearly the best part of the day for some students, was when New Richmond Tree Service removed a dead cottonwood tree from the park.

Students hollered and cheered as crews from New Richmond Tree Service removed a wedge from the base of the tree trunk, causing the roughly 60-foot tree to come crashing to the ground.

After the tree was grounded and the area deemed safe, several students investigated the trunk.

Ruth Hilfiker, horticulture educator with the University of Wisconsin-Extension, along with several students, worked determine the age of the large tree by counting the rings.

One student was astonished by the answer.

"28?" he asked.

Hilfiker explained that cottonwood trees grow very quickly and that's why the large tree was only about 28 years old.

The annual Arbor Day celebration began in 2007 when 13, 10-foot trees were planted along Richmond Way by Westfields Hospital. Since then, trees have been planted at Mary Park and Hatfield Park Campgrounds.

The annual celebration in New Richmond is the brainchild of the New Richmond Urban Forestry Committee, formed in 2005 under the leadership of Kerlin.

In 2005 - 2006 an extensive tree inventory was done. Since then, the city has been trying to follow guidelines for tree planting within a city as suggested by Laura Jull, woody ornamental specialist at UW-Madison. The guidelines include:

• Plant no more than 30 percent of a family.

• Plant no more than 20 percent of a genus.

• Plant no more than 10 percent of a species.