Arbor Day Tree Planting

Elementary School Students at Arbor Day 2023

Arvada Celebrates 37 years of Arbor Day Tree Planting with Peck Elementary

The City of Arvada and Peck Elementary School on Thursday, May 11, 2023 held its 37th annual Arbor Day tree planting celebration.

The City’s Forestry team and fifth grade students from Peck Elementary gathered at Sunrise Ridge Park and planted 37 trees to commemorate the 37 years of Arbor Day celebrations between the City and school.

With Peck Elementary closing this year, Thursday’s celebration was bittersweet as it marked the final time this special Arvada tradition was shared between Peck Elementary and the City of Arvada.

Going forward, the City will continue its annual Arbor Day tree planting celebration by partnering with different elementary schools in the city each year.

2023 Arvada Arbor Day Tree Planting

“Arbor Day is an important event that celebrates the value and benefits of trees in our community. It’s an opportunity for us to come together, learn about the importance of trees, and plant new trees to improve our environment,” City Forester Ian McDonald said. “This year as we celebrate Arbor Day with Peck Elementary for the final time, I want to reflect on this history of this event and the impact it’s had on our community

“Over the past 37 years we have planted more than 400 trees with Peck Elementary. These trees have grown to provide shade, clean air and habitat for wildlife. We have here today people that have been involved in that process since the beginning.”

The special guests that were in attendance included:

  • Dudley Weiland, former Peck Elementary School teacher and co-founder of Arvada’s Arbor Day tree planting celebration
  • Craig Hillegass, former Arvada City Forester and co-founder of Arvada’s Arbor Day tree planting celebration
  • Kathy Frank, former Peck Elementary School Principal from 1988-96
  • Deb Pearce, current Peck Elementary School Principal
  • Kyle Sylvester and Dave Nigh, former City of Arvada Park employees
  • Mark Deven, former Arvada City Manager
  • Arvada City Council Members John Marriott and Randy Moorman
  • Lorie Gillis, Arvada City Manager
  • Mike Lee, former Arvada Parks and Urban Design Manager
  • Karen Miller, former Majestic View Nature Center Director
  • Anna Hoover, current Majestic View Nature Center Director
  • Steve Gustafson, Arvada Parks Manager
  • Dr. Enessa Janes, Arvada’s Vibrant Community and Neighborhoods Director

During the 37 years, more than 1,800 Peck students have planted nearly 500 trees with Arvada park employees in parks across the community.

Two to three weeks before Arbor Day tree planting celebration each year, forestry staff visit the school to provide information about the trees, and the students make informational posters that they then bring to the tree planting celebration.

2023 Arvada Arbor Day Tree Planting

The tradition started in 1987 by Dudley Weiland, a sixth grade teacher at Peck Elementary, and Craig Hillegass, Arvada’s former City Forester. The annual tree planting ceremony steadily grew over the years and led to Arvada receiving several recognitions from the Arbor Day Foundation.

“I remember going up to Peck Elementary School, and sitting down in one of (Weiland’s) classrooms in the little chairs for the fifth and sixth graders, and we planned this thing out and how we were going to do it. The first year was at Lady Bug Park," Hillegass said.

“I still go by there. The trees we planted way back then are still there. We planted a Green Ash that’s probably 40 feet tall now. We could drive around Arvada now and remember all the Arbor Days and all the trees we planted.”

Weiland taught in Arvada schools for 37 years and left quite the impression on his students. The City’s annual Arbor Day tree planting was just one of many contributions he’s made in the community.

“Mr. Weiland and Kathy Frank are awesome people,” said Maureen Worley, whose involvement in the annual tradition has come full circle, first as a Peck Elementary School student and now as a member of the City’s Parks team. “Mr. Weiland was the best teacher I ever had, and I still remember him to this day – my most influential teacher.”

Despite a steady rain throughout the morning, Peck students and City staff members braved the wet weather and planted various species of trees throughout Sunrise Ridge Park. The pandemic didn’t stop the yearly tradition from happening over the past few years. And no amount of rain was going to damper Thursday’s planting.

“We’ve not had a break in our service and partnership with Arvada since 1987,” Peck Elementary School Principal Deb Pearce said. “To have 37 trees commemorating our 37 years of partnership is really special.”

Arbor Day Foundation Recognitions

Arbor Day is an important step towards the City receiving its Tree City USA award from the Arbor Day Foundation for 32 consecutive years now.

For the third consecutive year, Arvada received the Arbor Day Foundation's Growth Award, presented to communities that demonstrate higher levels of tree care and community engagement during the calendar year. And in 2018 the City of Arvada Parks Division was awarded the Gold Leaf Award for their Arbor Day activities, an award presented by the International Society of Arboriculture in recognition of outstanding Arbor Day Activities.

Arbor Day 2023 Tree Planting Celebration