There’s no better way to celebrate the 150th Arbor Day than letting kids climbing trees—especially when the adventure also includes environmental education. The seventh and eighth graders at St. Ann Catholic School in Normandy are getting this exciting yet safe opportunity on Friday, April 22, at St. Vincent Park in North St. Louis County.

The 24:1 Arbor Day Celebration also includes an Arbor Day Program by local municipal leaders and Beyond Housing partners, plus a visit by St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page.

“Arbor Day is set aside to celebrate trees and all the wonderful benefits they provide us,” said Doug Seely, Director of Forestry and Community Conservation at the nonprofit community development organization Beyond Housing, which is coordinating the event.

“Trees are not just for the country,” Seely said. “They play an important role in our health and well-being as urban residents too—and they make our cities look good.”

How We Benefit from Our Urban Forest

Seely and his team have worked for years in coordination with the Missouri Department of Conservation to raise awareness of the environmental benefits of a healthy tree canopy in the 24:1 Community—including removing pollutants from the air, reducing stormwater runoff, and addressing the urban heat island effect. An urban forest also has positive social and economic impact on everything from population density to poverty to high school graduation rates.

A recent tree canopy assessment, made possible with help from the EPA, found that 30 percent of the 24:1 Community is covered by foliage, mostly in residential neighborhoods, parks, golf courses, and other lightly developed areas. You can see the results in your neighborhood on these interactive maps.

This canopy has a clear impact on air quality, removing 33,900 pounds of smoke, dust, and other particles each year and directly improving residents’ respiratory health (for example, through lower rates of asthma). The cumulative annual value of all the ecosystem benefits from this urban forest is $1.2 million.

Local Leaders Talk Trees

During the 24:1 Arbor Day Celebration, two mayors from the 24:1 Community will read the Arbor Day Proclamation to show how they’ve worked together to accomplish their goals. Local communities who are or would like to be part of Tree City USA (an urban forest recognition program from the Arbor Day Foundation) will also be present during the lunch. After the proclamation Ameren Missouri will make a donation of $50,000 for hazardous tree removal on private property in the 24:1 footprint as part of the recently launched Treesilience program, in partnership with Forest ReLeaf of Missouri, The Nature Conservancy and Davey Tree Expert Company. County Executive Dr. Sam Page will also be in attendance to speak on the importance of sustainability during this Earth and Arbor Day.

Beyond Housing hosted two 24:1 Arbor Day Celebrations in 2018 and 2019 before pausing the event due to COVID. Seely is excited to finally have it back. “This is the best day for me in my position at Beyond Housing,” he said. “Seeing the youth engaged and having fun is the most rewarding aspect of my job.”