Rotary Club, FFA add 60 more trees to city’s canopy

By Bob Steenson,

Members of the Charles City Rotary Club joined with Charles City High School FFA students Wednesday to plant more than 60 trees in parks, along trails and in other places in the city.

It was the second half of a project begun by the club last fall that in total has planted almost 170 trees in Charles City.

The president of Rotary International had suggested that every club plant at least one tree for each member, because of the beauty and environmental impact that trees provide.

The Charles City club started with each of the almost 40 members planting a small red oak tree in their yards, businesses and other places.

But then the club decided to do more. It combined $5,000 of local club money with a $5,000 Rotary Foundation grant to plant more than 60 trees last October and another 60-plus on Wednesday.

Cathy Rottinghaus, local club president, said when the project started, “It just makes a nice full circle. It involves a lot of the students and it gives Rotary a chance to work with students. We all learn from that.”

Greg Heidebrink, a Charles City-based district forester with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Forestry Bureau, showed the students and club members how to plant the trees Wednesday, then they broke up into five groups with club members and students in each group and spread out across the city.

After the trees were planted, they were piled up with mulch and then a five-gallon bucket with holes in the bottom was staked next to each tree.

Members of the Rotary Club will go around about once a week or more often for at least the first year, filling each bucket with water so it can trickle into the ground around its tree.

The Rotary Club project was spearheaded by Chris Garden, the chairman of the club’s service project committee, who was talking about the international project with Rottinghaus last year when they decided to ramp up the effort.

Garden had planted trees for his Eagle Scout project, and many club members were concerned about the impact the emerald ash borer would have on the city’s trees.

Club member Chuck Souder, who also helped organize the tree-planting project, said a lot of ash trees that will eventually be taken down are still standing, so it’s hard for people to see yet how big of an impact an emerald ash borer infestation will have.

“It’s not even noticeable,” Souder said, “but it sure will be if we don’t get more trees in the ground.”

The club worked with Heidebrink and the city parks department to decide which species of trees should be planted and where.