PA0115arborday.jpg

New Port Richey, a designated Tree City USA community, will celebrate Florida Arbor Day 2020 on Jan. 17, at Frances Avenue Park.

NEW PORT RICHEY — Arbor Day in America isn’t like most other celebrated observances.

Rather than being recognized or celebrated on one day throughout the country, trees get attention throughout the year from state to state. Though there is a National Arbor Day, which falls on the last Friday in April, many states have decided to observe the occasion based on best tree planting times in their area.

Hawaii and Texas wait until November. South Carolina pulls up the rear in December. Most land somewhere within March and May.

But where everything gets started is right here in the Sunshine State … and the Pelican State. Florida and Louisiana begin each calendar year’s celebration of all things tree on the third Friday of January.

In Pasco County, New Port Richey is one of four Tree City USA communities, joined by Dade City, San Antonio and Zephyrhills. The Tree City USA program is part of the Arbor Day Foundation and, according to the foundation’s website, it helps provide the framework necessary for communities to manage and expand their public trees.

New Port Richey will stage its 31st Florida Arbor Day celebration at 10 a.m., Friday, Jan. 17, at Frances Avenue Park, 5580 Frances Ave., east of Grand Boulevard.

The public event brings together City Council members and city staff, the city’s volunteer Environmental Committee and the fourth-grade class from Genesis Elementary School to recognize the importance of trees.

According to a press release issued by the Environmental Committee, the Genesis Elementary students will present a program about trees and what they do to help the environment thrive. Public Works Department employees will then join the children in planting trees at Frances Avenue Park.

In addition to the students’ presentation, the planting of trees and comments from city representatives, local agrarian groups will distribute milkweed seed packets and milkweed seedlings to attendees. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the presence of milkweed varieties is critical to the survival of Monarch butterflies. The gifting of milkweed seeds and seedlings Friday is part of the city’s pursuit of recognition as a Monarch City USA.

The Monarch City USA program, created in 2015 in Maple Valley, Washington, encourages municipalities throughout the nation to plant milkweed and nectar plants. The program’s website lists member communities in 17 different states, seven of which are in Florida. New Port Richey would become the Tampa Bay area’s second members, joining Dade City.