Blessing stresses planting ‘for a reason’

Traci Westcott/The Herald
Father Ray Brenner, center right, blesses a Eastern red cedar tree alongside Jasper Assistant Park Director Rob Gutgsell, left; Patoka 2000 members, Diann Meneilly-Horney and Drew Englert; Jasper Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Nancy Eckerle; and Patoka 2000 member Mike Dooley at the annual Patoka 2000 Arbor Day tree dedication and blessing at the Jasper City Cemetery on Friday. 


JASPER — Two towering Eastern red cedars stand at the Jasper City Cemetery, their branches casting shadows over the graves adjacent to Jasper 8 Theatres and to the east near Brucke Strasse.

They are the perfect examples of the right trees planted at the right places.

Some are doomed to failure. But not these.

Members of Patoka 2000 — a Jasper Chamber of Commerce subcommittee that strives to preserve and plant trees in the area — honored one of the pair of trees at the group’s annual Arbor Day dedication and blessing ceremony on Friday morning.

Mike Dooley, a Patoka 2000 member with years of forestry and tree-related knowledge and experience, explained at the event why the latest honoree’s roots are in just the right spot.

Many trees in the city were planted in areas that don’t allow them to reach their full potential due to the excessive cutting and shaping they require. Whether pushing up from underneath power lines, dangling into streets or damaging underground sewer lines, Dooley stressed that planters need to be wary of their surroundings when they drop a seed into the earth.

“Plant the right tree in the right spot,” he said during a speech at the dedication. “That’s the key to this thing. Know what you’re doing, and if you don’t know, ask somebody.”

He encouraged buyers to ask nursery employees about areas particular trees should and should not be planted. That way, residents can avoid slicing them down when they mature.

Patoka 2000 has honored and blessed a Jasper tree each year for the past decade or so. Dooley recalled discovering the two cedars while driving to Azura Grill & Cafe, which is just down the road from the patch of land the softwoods have grown on for years.

He explained that Eastern red cedars can be found from Michigan in the north to Texas in the south, and east to the Atlantic Ocean. They grow between 15 and 65 feet in height — Dooley estimated the honored Jasper tree is about four stories tall — and one was dated in West Virginia at 940 years old. They are a hearty species tolerable of extreme conditions.

The Jasper Park & Recreation Department and Patoka 2000 recently teamed up to give away 1,200 saplings to residents — including red buds, white pines, red and white oaks, persimmons and more. Rob Gutgsell, the park department’s assistant director, said at Friday’s event that he hopes those trees will find homes they can grow in for many years to come.

“I’m with Mike, trying to educate where, and why, how to plant them for a reason,” Gutgsell said.

Also at the celebration, Father Ray Brenner of St. Joseph Catholic Church read a passage from the book of Genesis and said a prayer for this year’s honoree.

Brenner praised God for the tree, which he said reaches from the ground to the heavens.

“That’s what we’re all supposed to do,” Brenner said.

More on