McAllen’s Arbor Day Challenge promotes urban forests

McALLEN  –  In a first for the city, a long stretch of a major thoroughfare in McAllen will be closed to traffic to celebrate Arbor Day and promote urban tree planting, according to a Texas A&M Forest Service official.

Salvador Alemany, a Texas A&M regional urban forester in Weslaco, promotes McAllen's Arbor Day Challenge on Feb. 9. (AgriLife Communications photo by Rod Santa Ana)

Salvador Alemany, a Texas A&M Forest Service regional urban forester in Weslaco, promotes McAllen’s Arbor Day Challenge on Feb. 9. (AgriLife Communications photo by Rod Santa Ana)

“Bicentennial Boulevard, between Pecan Avenue and Nolana Avenue, about a three-mile stretch of a major road in McAllen, will be closed off on Feb. 9 for a full day of Arbor Day events,” said Salvador Alemany, a Forest Service regional urban forester at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Weslaco.

The event begins at 7 a.m. at McAllen Municipal Park, 1921 N. Bicentennial Blvd. Besides Alemany, other organizers include Michelle Romero and Scott McKeon, Keep McAllen Beautiful board president and executive director, respectively, and Mark Kroeze, McAllen city forester.

“The idea is to establish a tree fund in the city of McAllen that will be used to buy and plant more trees throughout the city,” he said. “We’re also hoping that Arbor Day becomes a large annual event, like the Fourth of July, to the point that people expect and look forward to Arbor Day.”

City trees, or urban forests, as Alemany calls them, add healthy benefits to citizens’ quality of life.

“When we think of a park, we think of trees: a nice, peaceful place to relax and enjoy life,” he said. “Psychological studies have actually shown that when we enter an area of trees, we experience positive emotions. But it’s up to all of us to plant and nurture trees. When we do, it improves our health and quality of life. The city of McAllen, and many others in the Valley, are well aware of this and promote urban forests. This event will be one of the largest tree events yet in this area.”

Arbor Day Challenge events include a family fun walk/run, a 5K run, a 10K run, a 20-mile bike tour and a 30-mile bike race, Alemany said. The first 300 to register for any of the events will receive a free t-shirt and free tree saplings, donated by the Apache Foundation and valued between $50 and $75, along with information on proper planting and care.

“Prizes will be awarded to the first three finishers in each event,” he said. “And each event has several divisions, based on experience, age and gender, depending on the event. The 5K and 10K runs and the bike race will be chip events, meaning runners will be timed based on an electronic chip that will be placed either in their jerseys or ankle bracelets. Also unique to this area will be team cycling competition with teams of ten cyclists, which can be a combination of men and women.”

Entry fees range from $15 to $25, depending on the event. Early registration, which ends Feb. 6, can be made at the following locations: Valley Running Company, 1701 W. Dove Ave. McAllen; Bicycle World of Harlingen, Brownsville and McAllen, 2025 W. Nolana Ave., McAllen; Bike Masters of Mission, 2801 E. Griffin Parkway, Mission; and at City of McAllen Recycling Center, 4101 N. Bentsen Road, McAllen.

Packet pick-up and late registration will be available from 3 – 7p.m. Feb. 8 at Valley Running Company.

Sponsors include AEP Texas, City of McAllen, Bicycle World of McAllen, Valley Running Co., Keep McAllen Beautiful, McPD Cycling Team, Team McAllen Cycling, Bike Masters of Mission, the Texas A&M Forest Service, Donna Medical Clinic and Breadsmith Artisan Bread Bakery in McAllen.

For more information, call Keep McAllen Beautiful at 956-681-4562, Alemany at 956-373-8543 or online at www.keepmcallenbeautiful.org .

“Among the other events we’ll also be planting trees along Bicentennial,” Alemany said. “This is a public event for the whole family from any area. Hopefully, we’ll create an atmosphere for more events, and for similar events in other cities to help sustain urban forests. Trees, reforestation, quality of life, exercise, good health, positive emotions, they are all related and should be promoted daily throughout the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The Arbor Day Challenge is a major effort to do just that.”

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