WEST NEWBURY — Plans for a first-of-its-kind Arbor Day celebration next month had to be nixed for the time being due to a townwide moratorium on social gatherings.

The event, hosted by the Tree Committee, was intended to celebrate trees and their value to the community.

In particular, the committee hoped to highlight a pin oak tree at the Training Field. Known as “The Anniversary Tree,” it was planted on April 20, 1923, to mark the 75th wedding anniversary of Henry and Esther Lay.

A member of the red oak family of trees, pin oaks bear glossy green leaves in the summer that transform into a deep reddish bronze in autumn.

“‘The Anniversary Tree’ is a lovely tree with an old family history behind it. It was brought to our attention by the descendant who still lives in the family homestead where the tree stands,” said River Road resident Claudia Woods Estin, a member of the Tree Committee.

According to descendant Bonnie Gibbons, the Lay family has a rich legacy in town. A carriage builder by trade, Henry Lay settled here in 1845 and served as a selectman from 1878 to 1883.

He also represented the district in the General Court in 1884. The tree was planted as a way to honor Henry and Esther and their contributions to the community.

The committee, appointed by selectmen last summer, aims to preserve and protect “significant and remarkable” trees in town, according to its mission statement. In addition to Woods Estin, the panel includes Chairman Fred Chanania, Barbara Haack, Molly Hawkins, Kathy Mandeville, Jane Martin and Francesca Pomerantz — along with Tree Warden Wayne Amaral.

The group is committed to educating the public about the vital role trees and forests play in preserving a healthy environment and fostering the well-being of the community.

“Through their complex root systems, trees gather and store water, prevent erosion and flooding from cleared lands, and cleanse the groundwater for our water supplies,” a press release from the committee states. “They also support and nurture wildlife, insect pollinators for our gardens, and provide a critical aesthetic component of our semirural community.” 

The committee hopes to reschedule the Arbor Day celebration for a later date. The committee’s vision for the event included a range of activities— workshops on tree planting and care, a seedling giveaway, a tree survey, children’s activities, a contest and prize basket, and a “Meet the Tree Warden” session.

The postponed celebration represented the committee’s initial outreach to West Newbury residents and it hopes the public will still find time to stop by and admire “The Anniversary Tree.”

The first documented Arbor Day festival took place in the Spanish village of Mondoñedo in 1594, where lime and horse chestnut trees still grow today. The first Arbor Day in the U.S. was held in Nebraska City, Nebraska, on April 10, 1872.

To learn more about Tree Committee activities and information related to West Newbury trees and forests, visit the committee’s page at www.wnewbury.org.

On March 16, selectmen issued a state of emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic which in part, prohibited all nonessential congregations of people in town. The declaration remains in effect until selectmen determine “the state of emergency no longer exists,” the document states.

Selectmen were to meet Wednesday to review the status of the coronavirus threat in town.

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