In the last 37 years, over 1,800 Peck Elementary School students have planted nearly 500 trees at parks across the city in recognition of Arbor Day — an annual occasion that celebrates the value of trees within the community, which was first observed in Arvada in 1987 thanks to former Peck teacher Dudley Weiland.
On May 11, Peck students celebrated the final Arbor Day before the elementary school closes at the end of the school year. To commemorate the bittersweet occasion, Peck fifth graders teamed up with Arvada’s Forestry Team to plant 37 trees at Sunset Ridge Park — one for each year Peck observed Arbor Day.
For the first Arvada Arbor Day, Weiland teamed up with former City Forester Craig Hillegass to plan the event, which seeks to promote education about the benefits of tree preservation and planting of trees themselves.
“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,” Hillegass said. “The first year was at Lady Bug Park.
“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.”
For some former Peck students, like Maureen Worley, Arbor Day has come full circle: Worley first participated as a student and now works for Arvada’s parks team.
“Mr. Weiland and (former Peck Principal) Kathy Frank are awesome people,” Worley said. “Mr. Weiland was the best teacher I ever had, and I still remember him to this day – my most influential teacher.”
Going forward, the city will commemorate Arbor Day by partnering with a different elementary school in Arvada and continuing the legacy started by Peck, according to Sean Star, Vibrant Community and Neighborhoods Communication Manager with the city of Arvada.
“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 the history of this event and the impact it’s had on our community."
McDonald added that over the past 37 years, more than 400 trees have been planted with Peck Elementary.
“These trees have grown to provide shade, clean air and habitat for wildlife," McDonald said. "We have here today people that have been involved in that process since the beginning.”
Peck Principal Deb Pearce said she has appreciated the unwavering partnership between the city and the school.
“We’ve not had a break in our service and partnership with Arvada since 1987,” Pearce said. “To have 37 trees commemorating our 37 years of partnership is really special.”