PINE KNOLL SHORES — On a bright, clear Friday, about 13 residents and town officials gathered to hold a celebration of Arbor Day and the community’s dedication to protecting its trees.

Officials held the ceremony at noon Friday in front of town hall at 100 Municipal Circle. This year for the Arbor Day celebration, the town’s community appearance commission gave out trees Friday and Saturday to residents and nonresidents in need of native tree species to replace those lost to Hurricane Florence in September.

The tree giveaways were part of a year-long program spearheaded by Mayor Ken Jones, who calls it the Year of the Tree. The mayor first proposed this program in late 2018 and it was well-received by officials and the public.

“This is a great day to celebrate for the Year of the Tree,” the mayor said Friday. “There are approximately 3,500 Tree Cities USA. We’re a little place, but we’ve got a lot of trees.”

Pine Knoll Shores is designated a Tree City USA, which means the Arbor Day Foundation has recognized it for maintaining a tree board or department, having a community tree ordinance, spending at least $2 per capita on urban forestry and celebrating Arbor Day.

Resident Paul O’Keefe was present at the ceremony Friday; his wife, Jean O’Keefe, serves on the appearance commission.

“This (ceremony) is wonderful, it’s what Pine Knoll Shores is all about,” Mr. O’Keefe said. “They have a well-earned reputation for protecting the environment. They’ve been distributing trees all morning and will do so again tomorrow (Saturday).”

Resident Susan Phillips was assisting with the tree giveaway Friday. She said it’s wonderful to have an opportunity to distribute the trees, especially with how many were lost during Florence.

“We’ve given away about half (the trees),” she said. “We have willow oaks, live oaks, sweet bay magnolia and wax myrtle. The wax myrtle has been popular, they grow fast and provide screening for privacy.”

Resident Billy Williams came to the ceremony Friday to pick up a wax myrtle. Mr. Williams said he’s putting the trees around his patio.

“I think it is wonderful,” he said. “With all the tree devastation we’ve had, this is part of the recovery. The community really came together for the hurricane.”

Appearance committee Chairman Steve Felch thanked everyone who helped with the Arbor Day event and with the town to maintain its Tree City USA designation.

“There’s been a lot of work behind the scenes,” Mr. Felch said. He talked about the benefits that trees offer, such as absorbing carbon that can affect climate change and absorbing stormwater.

“Climate change isn’t new, but it’s aggravated by man-made activities,” Mr. Felch said. “Through this reforestation effort, we hope to help correct some of this.”

Also present at the ceremony Friday was N.C. Forest Service representative Zack Phillips.

“You’re the only Tree City USA in Carteret County besides Beaufort,” Mr. Phillips said, “and they don’t do things like this. Pine Knoll Shores is one of 86 municipalities in North Carolina to receive this designation. There are nearly 4 million residents in North Carolina who live in Tree Cities. I can tell you all take pride in your trees.”

Mr. Felch also announced that a newly planted tree, a sweet bay magnolia in front of town hall, is being dedicated to the memory of Harold Green of Pine Knoll Shores, who died in October.

“Harold was a lifelong environmentalist who served on the CAC,” Mr. Felch said. “He had a particular passion for trees.”

Contact Mike Shutak at 252-726-7081 ext. 206, email mike@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt. 

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