Community Takes Root in the City of Raytown, Missouri

September 28, 2023, Department, by Toni Alexander

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Known as the holiday to plant trees, Arbor Day is celebrated in many cities and countries around the world. In the middle of the United States, the Raytown (Missouri) Parks and Recreation Department (Raytown Parks) celebrated its 33rd annual Arbor Day on April 12. A handful of residents, Raytown Parks staff and the Raytown Garden Club gathered at Kritser Park to plant a Ginkgo tree donated by Raytown residents John and Carol Abbot.

The Ginkgo was planted on a hill that receives lots of sun. Hailed as one of the most distinct and beautiful of all deciduous trees, the Ginkgo tree was chosen because it is an ancient tree with a fossil record that is millions of years old. It also was chosen for its shade, striking yellow color in the fall and hardiness — it can tolerate many urban conditions and establishes easily. When fully grown, this Ginkgo tree will stand about 50 feet tall and 35 feet wide and can live as long as 3,000 years.

Designated as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation for 20 years, Raytown recorded its first tree planting for Arbor Day in 1995. For the past several decades, Raytown Parks has partnered with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) to celebrate trees and pay it forward to future generations.

Chuck Conner, MDC community forester, says it best: “Arbor Day celebrates the future, not the past. There is a cornucopia of benefits from the cradle to the grave that comes with having a green environment and parks system. It is my pleasure to recognize Raytown as a Tree City and a quality green parks system that the citizens can use that literally increases quality of life.”

Over the years, MDC and Raytown Parks have partnered to plant 15 trees at Kritser Park, Kenagy Park and the historic Rice-Tremonti home farm property, as well as near Raytown Schools. In 2022, Raytown Parks planted a Magnolia grandiflora ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’ tree.

“The support MDC provides to local municipalities has been a tremendous resource for Raytown Parks,” says Raytown Parks Director Dave Turner. “Through various MDC grants and funding programs, communities like Raytown can extend their local tax dollars to accomplish more tree care and conservation that [we] would normally be unable to fund through our own budget[s].”

“Kritser Park is almost like an arboretum,” adds horticulturist Ron Fowler. “There is so much diversity in this park, tree wise.”

The City of Raytown is full of mature trees that line the streets and boulevards. For decades, the parks department has realized the benefits of trees. Besides their beauty, trees reduce utility bills and absorb carbon emissions — cleaning the air.

In continuing the Raytown tradition, after the Arbor Day program, Raytown Parks staff handed out free buttonwood bushes that were donated by MDC.

Toni Alexander is a Public Information Officer in the City of Raytown, Missouri.