BASTROP, Texas — A little more than 18 months after the most destructive wildfire in Texas history, this Central Texas community is coming together once again, this time to celebrate resiliency, recovery and hope.
Those themes will be the primary focus as Bastrop residents join with state and local dignitaries this Friday to celebrate the 124th Texas Arbor Day.
The official state ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. Friday, April 26, 2013, at the Bastrop Convention & Exhibit Center, 1408 Chestnut Street in downtown Bastrop. An Education Fair will immediately follow on the adjoining grounds.
“Arbor Day is a special day because it celebrates the bond between Texans and our trees,” said Tom Boggus, director and state forester for the Texas A&M Forest Service and master of ceremonies for the state observance.
“Trees can stir strong memories and serve as markers for significant milestones in our lives. They also have the unique ability to bring community members together and provide them with hope for the future, which is exactly what we’re celebrating this year in Bastrop.”
First observed in Texas in 1889, Arbor Day celebrates the planting and nurturing of trees, as well as all the ways that trees enrich our lives. The annual state celebration is held in a different city each year.
This year, however, the observance is designed to shine a spotlight on the Bastrop community and its resiliency in the wake of a devastating wildfire that charred 32,400 acres, destroyed 1,660 homes and killed roughly 1.5 million trees.
Since the September 2011 fire, residents have come together to reforest the community, planting more than a half-million seedlings. Plans call for roughly 3 million to 4 million more to be planted over the next four to five years.
The state ceremony will feature Bastrop Mayor Terry Orr, and the city will receive a ‘Tree City USA’ designation from the Arbor Day Foundation, honoring their commitment to urban forestry.
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Executive Director Carter Smith will provide the Arbor Day keynote address.
The ceremony will conclude with the Education Fair, which is open to the public. It will feature various information booths and hands-on children’s activities, as well as a special appearance by Dozer & Tracker, 5-month-old purebred bloodhound puppies who are in training to become Texas A&M Forest Service’s newest K9 arson investigators.