When Fulton children arrived at their respective school buildings Monday morning, they were greeted by about 80 new trees — all Missouri natives and each one representing a member of the Fulton Rotary Club.
The initiative brought out members of that club, plus students and members of the Fulton Garden Club and Callaway County Master Gardeners, early Saturday morning.
After a briefing from Ryan Russell, of Millersburg, who is horticulturalist for the city of Columbia, tree planters fanned out to each of the school buildings.
"This project began with Rotary International," said Bob Sterner, who spearheaded it for the Fulton Rotary Club. "Then we were joined by the Fulton Garden Club."
Ian H.S. Riseley, of Victoria, Australia, is the current president of Rotary International. His presidential theme is "Rotary: Making a Difference," and in keeping with that, he challenged members to plant a tree somewhere in the world for every Rotary member. He recently spoke to Rotary members, saying environmental degradation and global climate change seriously threatens the planet.
"The time is long past when environmental sustainability can be dismissed as not Rotary's concern," he said in that speech, according to an article posted on RI's website. "It is, and must be, everyone's concern."
That article said Riseley wants this initiative completed by Earth Day 2018, which is April 22.
"It is my hope that the result of that effort will be far greater than the environmental benefit that those 1.2 million new trees will bring," Riseley said in the article. "I believe the greater result will be a Rotary that recognizes our responsibility not only to the people on our planet, but to the planet itself."
Fulton School Superintendent Jacque Cowherd is a Fulton Rotary Club member, and that factored into the decision to plant the trees at the local schools.
"It seemed like the best place to plant the trees was on public ground," Sterner said. "I asked (Cowherd) if he was interested and he was, enthusiastically so."
The 80 trees planted Saturday were started in 3-gallon containers about three years ago. Ryan demonstrated how to prepare them for planting by loosening any encircling roots.
"They need to be teased out in a natural direction," he said of the roots, adding the dirt at the base of the tree trunk also needed raking to remove roots in that area.
Without that, the trees would grow but die about 15 years later.
"The cells on the roots are different than the cells on the stem," Ryan added. "The roots would naturally choke and eventually kill the tree."
Sterner said the trees came from two sources. About half came from Forrest Keeling Nursery in Elsberry, sold to the project at half price. The other half were supplied for free by Forest ReLeaf of Missouri, based in St. Louis.
"They give trees away for planting in public spaces," Sterner added. "It's a neat resource that every city and county should go to."
Fulton Public Schools furnished the mulch and several students to help from the high school's Future Farmers of America and Vocational Agriculture organizations.