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Gust honored on Arbor Day

Third-grade students from Aurora Elementary School were on hand to help with the Arbor Day ceremony Friday, inside the Southside Fire Station. This is one of 30 trees that will be planted a little to the north of the station. Dave Wallis

The city held its 30th annual Arbor Day celebration Friday afternoon in the Southside Fire Station. Though the wind and wet conditions kept them from planting a tree, the ceremony went off without a hitch, with speeches from Urban Forestry Committee Chairman Dave Janssen and Mayor Rich Mattern, as well as a poem from Amber Thorstad’s class of 25 third-graders from Aurora Elementary School.

Each year, the city plants its Arbor Day tree in honor of a “prominent citizen” of West Fargo. This year’s tree will be planted in honor of longtime City Commissioner Jake Gust, who was in attendance with his family.

“I can’t think of a nicer way to be recognized than to have a tree planted for me,” Gust said. “That is going to live a lot longer than I am going to live. You could say it is one way for me to become immortal.”

According to City Forester Yvette Gehrke, the decision to acknowledge Gust in this way was an easy one.

“After being a city commissioner for 24 years, and being one of the people who got us the diversion — because we were flooding like crazy — I thought it would be nice to give him the honor,” Gehrke said.

Gehrke said the annual event will continue into the foreseeable future, due to both its popularity within the community and the significance of the topic at hand.

“This event helps give the youth knowledge of what trees actually do for our environment and to help us stay alive,” Gehrke said. “It also gets the adults to realize why trees are so important.”

The ceremony also marked the city’s 30th year as a member of Tree City USA, a national program sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation with the goal of raising awareness of the need for trees in our ecosystem.

“A lot of people take for granted the fact that trees are here, and they just don’t care about them,” Gehrke said. “Tree City USA shows why we need to continue planting trees.”

While the city’s forestry department strives to maintain safe and healthy forests in the area, they also encourage everyone who is able to plant a tree as a means to ensure a healthier environment for the next generation of West Fargoans.

“Planting a tree is planting for the future and your future family members,” Gehrke said. “A lot of people just say ‘I’m not going to plant a tree because I’m not going to live to see get old.’ Maybe you won’t, but maybe your grandkids will.”