Halsey – Saturday, April 25, 2014 was Arbor Day, and a perfect day to celebrate trees in the Nebraska National Forest, Bessey Ranger District near Halsey. It was also the official kick-off for the ‘The Discovery Loup Trail’ which is part of a volunteer revitalization project in the Bessey Arboretum at the Forest, where sixty tree species can be seen in a ¾ mile loop around the Forest Visitor Center/Office.
“This Arboretum is unique, as there is no other National Forest with this many tree species in such a small area,” states Rich Gilbert, Nursery Manager. “Species not normally found in the Sandhills were planted, such as the green ash, douglas fir and jack pine to ascertain if they could grow here. If so, they could potentially provide lumber and grow in windbreaks not to mention people’s yards here in the Sandhills.”
The ‘Discovery Loup’ is the first project to be undertaken by the newly formed group, Friends of the Nebraska National Forest. “I am excited about the beginnings of a new organized volunteer corps. It will do wonders to help us promote, interpret, and help out with work on the District, Nursery and the Sandhills,” says Bessey Ranger, Tim Buskirk.
Joining in the Arbor Day Celebration and volunteer work day were sixty-five K-8th grade students and their sponsors from Sandhills Elementary along with students from University of Nebraska, Kearney (UNK) Honors program and their director. Smokey Bear welcomed the kids to the Forest and Michael Jaquez of the Arbor Day Foundation was the Master of Ceremonies for the day.
Michael, his wife Shelley, and their three children made it a family trip. “I have traveled by here many times, but never have really seen the Nursery or the Arboretum. This is a great place for all families to come to and get close to nature and appreciate trees,” commented Michael.
After welcomes and a brief presentation, UNK students, along with employees of the Forest and Nursery became the crew chiefs while the elementary students became their crews. Over two dozen new tree markers were installed that display each the tree’s common and scientific name, family species and an image of the leaf and seed. Future plans on this project include the development of a self-guided tour booklet that will provide information about the Forest and the unique characteristics of each tree for visitors to the Forest.
Everyone who came was offered tours of the Nursery, the arboretum, and the Scott Lookout Tower. As a parting gift, everyone took home a Colorado blue spruce seedling to plant. The seedlings were donated by the Upper Loup NRD (Natural Resource District).
Friends of the Nebraska National Forest volunteer organizer, Pam Reed, pointed out,” Today could not have been possible without the help of so many local residents who donated their money, materials and time. Nearly 100% of all project funds collected to date have come from the Sandhills community, whose love of the Sandhills is demonstrated in their generosity. We are most grateful and hope they will be well pleased with the completed project.” Discovery Loup Trail sponsors include Hall and Sons, Midwest Partitions, the Nebraska Junk Jaunt ®, Sandhills RC&D, Thomas County Visitors Committee and the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway. Arboretum sponsors were T Lazy T/Tom & Twyla Witt and the Upper Loup NRD.