Need the trees

Published 9:59 pm Thursday, November 20, 2008

It’s about this time of year — maybe a tad bit earlier — when I think the most about trees.

They certainly make their presence known, don’t they? The leaves change from springtime green to brilliant oranges and reds and purples and then, baked by all of that effort, fall on the ground to crunch under little feet or get swept up by eager rakes.

At other times, their massive trunks allow for resting or climbing and their long branches, festooned with leaves, give us cool shelter on a sweltering summer day.

Besides the obvious, though, I don’t think trees have been on my mind as much as they have been since last Friday, when I had the pleasure of attending the city’s Arbor Day celebration.

There, children from local Head Start programs and the Gingerbread House Day Care Center, sang songs and recited poems about trees.

The effort was organized by local officials to celebrate the planting of a red maple tree outside the Martin Luther King Community Center on Oak Street and to remind citizens that this will mark Franklin’s 24th year as a Tree City.

That’s no small feat for Franklin. In fact, the city can claim to be the fifth longest Tree City participant in the state, a great accomplishment considering the Franklin’s small size. Other localities included in the top five include Alexandria with a population of 135, 842, Fairfax County with 1,037,311 citizens and Lynchburg with 66,040.

Since it was a cold day on Friday and swollen rain clouds kept threatening to burst, the Arbor Day celebration was held inside the MLK center.

Traditionally, children gather around a tree planted for the occasion and take turns using a shovel to hoist dirt near its base. This time, the maple outside — donated generously by Franklin Lawn and Garden Center — wouldn’t be the star of the show because of the weather.

But it and other trees were still on all of our minds as the tune from “The Leaves on the Trees are Falling Down” invaded our brains.

There, we all learned what an important role trees play in our community and in our lives.

According to, our tall friends absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. They give us shade that can reduce temperatures, and can make buildings 20 degrees cooler in the summer.

Their roots stabilize our soil and prevent erosion. Trees improve water quality by slowing and filtering rain water, as well as protecting aquifers and watersheds.

The next time I’m looking out of my car window and admiring a tree for its majestic beauty, I’ll remember that its importance runs as far down as its roots — and then some.

Then I’ll take a breath and thank the tree for that.