VICKSBURG – As the Florida Forest Service extends its Arbor Day recognition and residents progress in their recovery efforts from Hurricane Michael, we are reminded of the importance of trees and forest-related industries to our communities.

The Florida Forest Service is continuing its commitment reforestation in the wake of Michael and to celebrating Florida’s recognized Arbor Day – the third Friday in January – in Gulf County by giving away 150 trees at Rich’s IGA in Wewahitchka and 150 trees at Frank Pate Park in Port St. Joe.

Both events will be January 31 starting at 9 a.m. local time.

Available tree species will include, red bud, live oak, red maple and Chickasaw plum. Planting advice and information also will be provided by local foresters. Forest products have always played a crucial role in our local economy, from ribs and masts of sailing ships, turpentine stills, saw, pulp and pellet mills.

We have lived among the native oaks and other hardwoods that provided comfort, health, and beauty – asking from us nothing except space to grow.

Similar thoughts must have been on the mind of Julius Sterling Morton, founder of Arbor Day, when he moved from Michigan to the nearly treeless plains of Nebraska in 1854. Seeing the need for soil conservation and shade benefits that trees could provide, he began promoting tree planting as he served in state government. For more information on this Arbor Day event or for forestry related information in Bay or Gulf counties, contact Senior Forester, Joe Vanderwerff at (850) 691-0809 or at