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Turnout is good for Free Native Christmas Trees
POSTED: 12/11/2001
 
Give away free Christmas trees and they will come! That was the case on Saturday Dec. 8 when between 550 and 600 people turned out at Ernie Miller Park, 909 N. Kansas 7 Highway, Olathe, to take advantage of an opportunity to harvest a free eastern red cedar for use as a native Christmas tree.

“People were in a good mood, they were appreciative," said Johnson County Park and Recreation District Superintendent of Park Safety and Interpretation Mike Ray. "People for the most part enjoyed hiking though the woods and selecting a tree. It was a fun day and a good event. I received a lot complements from people that came."

In response to several requests he's received since the event, Ray said no additional free trees will be made available this holiday season.

In all, more than 300 trees ranging from three to 10 feet in height were cut during Saturday's event, which was part of a Kansas City WildLands workday. The majority of trees cut were in the six- to eight-foot range. In addition to spreading goodwill, this effort helped a prairie remnant at the site by removing a native species that is considered invasive in prairies and old fields. In time, the cedars' sheer numbers and effects of their shading eliminate sun-loving prairie flora.

Ray said he was surprised by the large turnout, but said he believed this was boosted in part by the fact that a site on the Missouri side that was also originally scheduled to participate had backed out earlier in the week. As a result of that and good publicity in the form of a prominent Kansas City Star article, those claiming trees came from throughout the metropolitan area. Ray said there were people from Blue Springs, North Kansas City, Independence, Wyandotte County, Lee’s Summit, and even Kearney, Mo. Those in attendance included families, various groups, singles and lots of children, he added.

Several of those who came to claim trees made an extra effort to thank him and to tell him that this gesture on the part of the District meant a great deal in this time when many are feeling the effects of a declining economy, Ray said.

Both District and KC WildLands officials were pleased with the event and Ray said the District will likely consider doing this again in the future.


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