Forest for the trees: Former Parks and Recreation director ro receive award on Arbor Day

On a day created to promote planting trees in a leafless landscape, the Carson City Shade Tree Council will honor a man who spent years advocating the idea of what he calls "urban forests."

Former Carson City Parks and Recreation Director Steve Kastens has been named the winner of this year's George Washington Ferris Award.

Kastens headed up the city's parks department for 20 years before retiring a year ago this May. During his career, Kastens helped form the original Shade Tree Council, fought for tree-planting funds and lobbied to add an arborist to the parks department staff.

"Your past efforts on behalf of Carson City's trees more than merits this honor," Shade Tree Council Chair Jean Bondiett wrote Kastens in a letter announcing the award.

Kastens said trees are a tremendous benefit to any community for the shade and cooling they provide while sucking in carbon monoxide and producing oxygen. Trees also simply make communities better places to live, he said.

"If you go into a town without trees it's not nearly as pleasing as one with a lot of trees, especially if there's a variety."

Kastens' preference for trees in town was one shared by the award's namesake, George Washington Ferris Sr., the father of George W. Ferris Jr., the famed inventor of the Ferris Wheel. Ferris Sr. is credited with planting trees on the Capitol lawn, including the state's official Christmas tree.

Ferris was just one of the West's 19th century residents who thought people should plant trees rather than leave the sprouts up to nature.

According to the National Arbor Day Foundation, Arbor Day began in 1872 through the efforts of J. Sterling Morton, a settler who migrated to the grass plains of Nebraska and found that he sorely missed something in particular from his native Michigan, trees.

The trees, which anchored the soil and acted as wind breaks, were also necessary for good farming.

With a great deal of promotion from civic groups and newspaper editorials, as well as prizes offered for the most trees planted correctly, the foundation estimates that first Arbor Day ended with more than 1 million new trees in the Nebraska ground.

This year's Arbor Day, Friday, will be celebrated at 5:30 p.m. with a ceremonial tree planting and presentation of the George Washington Ferris Award at the Long Ranch Estates Linear Park near Waterford Place and Chelsea Place off Kings Canyon Road. The public is encouraged to attend.

n Contact reporter Cory McConnell at or 881-1217.


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