As the month of April approaches, the Hays Beautification Committee is making plans for the 2016 Arbor Day observation in Hays. The Hays observation is scheduled at noon April 21 at Kiwanis Park, 17th and Harvest. The community is encouraged to join the observation where we will celebrate the continued importance of trees in our community.

The celebration will include the recognition of the 2016 Smokey Bear poster contest winners presented by the Prairie Garden Club. The city of Hays will be awarded the 2016 Tree City USA Award by Bryan Peterson, Kansas district forester, which marks the 37th straight year of receiving the award. Mayor Eber Phelps will make a presentation to the Hays Kiwanis Club honoring them for their service to the community.

In 2015, the Hays Kiwanis Club contributed $40,000 for a new restroom facility and new play unit for Kiwanis Park. The 2016 Arbor Day Celebration will conclude with Jeff Boyle, director of parks for the city, planting an accolade elm tree in Kiwanis Park.

Another project conducted by the HBC during April is the distribution of bare-root redbud trees to all of the fifth-graders attending schools April 15 to 21 in Hays. HBC members provide the fifth-grade children, in the school setting, a short presentation on the value trees provide to our communities as well as instructions on how to plant the trees which are given to the students as they leave school.

Redbud trees are chosen for several reasons, among those are they are a lovely harbinger of spring, having been called “a breath of fresh air after a long winter” and for the trees hardy adaptability. Although the redbud tree is tolerant of drought and a variety of exposures and soil types, it will perform best in well-drained soils, produce more flowers in full sun with winter chill and grow larger with some supplemental irrigation once established.

The redbud tree, which usually grows no taller than 30 feet, has leaves that emerge with a reddish color giving way to a lustrous summer green and finally to a striking fall yellow. Even in winter, the redbud tree is pleasant to behold, with its arching limbs and rounded crown. Its size and adaptability make it as welcome in any setting.

The Hays Beautification Committee, along with the Hays Parks Department, are sponsoring a Water $mart Landscape Award program for 2016, with categories for residential and commercial landscapes. A Water $mart Landscape is a sustainable and drought-tolerant landscape with low-water use plants and turf to maximize efficiency. More about the award program will be detailed in a subsequent article.

HBC encourages all residential and commercial property owners to consider enhancing or replacing landscaping with drought-tolerant plantings so we can make better use of one of our most precious resources — water.

HBC meets monthly at noon on the third Thursday of the month at the parks department headquarters. All meetings are open to the public, and everyone is invited to join us.

If you have any questions or comments regarding this article, contact the Hays Parks Department at (785) 628-7375.

Janis Lee is a member of the Hays Beautification Committee.