Nearly 50 volunteers, high school students and organizers converged on a small Department of Lands Idaho warehouse off Industrial Loop Tuesday, armed with work gloves and eager faces as they bagged trees for fourth graders celebrating Arbor Day.
The 33rd annual bagging operation, intended to help tree saplings survive the move to their new elementary school homes, is run by Arbor Day of North Idaho, a local nonprofit group dedicated to promoting tree growth and education.
“I think this event brings people together through all types of connectedness,” said Antje Cripe, who has volunteered the past six years. “It’s certainly preserving the tradition of planting.”
Clad in soiled gloves, fellow volunteer of 30 years Sharon Bore agreed. “I think it’s a really cool thing,” she said. “It’s a really great way for kids to be outside.”
The volunteers spent the morning in a gaggle of assembly lines, dipping roughly 2,500 trees in water, bagging them gently in clear bags, tagging them for identification and bundling them for transport to elementary schools in Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls, Rathdrum and Athol. The bare-root trees should then survive the trip to their grade schools, where they’ll be planted in the next few days. Each tree will also come with a brochure recognizing the Coeur d’Alene Arbor Day ceremony.
Grace Gabriel, a senior at Coeur d’Alene High School, said she enjoyed the tactile nature of the new experience.
“There’s just a lot of mud,” she said. “There’s a lot of mud and dirt and getting your hands dirty.
“I don’t have much of a green thumb, but I try.”
Others saw the event as an opportunity to help the environment around them.
“I hope this will help solve the problem of clear-cutting,” said Elisha Rovik, a senior at Venture High School. “We have a lot of clear-cutting in Coeur d’Alene, and I just hope that we can replenish the trees we have here. This is our oxygen. I would kinda like to continue to breathe; I don’t know about anyone else. I don’t think clearing out our trees is a smart idea. Replanting them and giving them good homes with these kids who can technically build a brighter future for us is something we can do to help.”
The annual project is the latest in this week’s lead-up to this Saturday’s Arbor Day. In conjunction with the City of Coeur d’Alene, volunteers will plant trees in a ceremony at 11 a.m. in City Park, across from the Memorial grandstand. The event will be followed by a celebration and free lunch at 12:30 p.m. in the gazebo at Memorial Skate Park.