McALLEN — Some 1,200 athletes are expected to compete Jan. 25 in McAllen’s third annual Arbor Day activities, according to a Texas A&M Forest Service official.
Arbor Day Celebration will be held from 7 a.m. to noon at McAllen Municipal Park, 1921 N. Bicentennial Blvd., according to Salvador Alemany, a Forest Service regional urban forester at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Weslaco.
Bicentennial Boulevard will be closed off to traffic between Pecan Avenue and Nolana Avenue to allow for bicycling and running events, he said.
“Last year’s activities attracted almost 700 athletes, and the city of McAllen won a statewide award for creating, developing and pulling off such a successful event,” Alemany said. “We are working to establish a permanent tree fund in the city of McAllen that will be used to buy and plant more trees throughout the city, as well as raise awareness of how trees are beneficial to our health.”
According to Alemany, last year’s Arbor Day event helped raise $16,000 for the city’s permanent tree fund.
“If they are well coordinated, these Arbor Day events can raise up to $50,000 per year for a tree fund that helps create a sprawling urban forest that increases the quality of life in a city,” he said. It helps encourage people to get out into the fresh air and exercise, even if it’s just a brisk walk.”
On Oct. 3, city and Forest Service officials were presented with the Gold Leaf Outstanding Arbor Day Award at the 34th Texas Tree Conference in Waco during the 2013 Texas Community Forestry Awards program.
McAllen is now eligible for a national award, Alemany said.
Arbor Day Celebration events include a family fun walk/run along the city’s hike and bike trail, a 5K run, a 10K run, a 25-mile bike tour and competitive and non-competitive Criterium bike races.
“This year our bicycle events are sanctioned by USA Cycling, which has helped us attract riders from throughout the state,” he said. “Cyclists must be a member of USA Cycling, but they can also buy a one-day license to compete. We’ll have a USA Cycling official here from San Antonio to monitor the events, so those who ride have a chance to rank nationally in this semi-pro event.”
According to their website, USA Cycling is the official cycling organization recognized by the International Olympic Committee, the U.S. Olympic Committee and the International Cycling Union. The organization is responsible for identifying, training and selecting cyclists to represent the U.S. in international competition.
“The bicycle races make for exciting competition, and the whole day is a fun event for the entire family that includes lots of music and food,” Alemany said. “But the goal is to raise money for a tree fund and help people understand how important and healthy it is to have trees in our environment.”
Ed Kuprel, the city forester in Edinburg, will be on hand to provide information on local trees.
“Besides making us feel good and giving us a sense of peace and tranquility, trees capture contaminants from the air that create respiratory problems,” Alemany said. “By increasing a town’s tree canopy, we improve our environment. Trees also absorb water from heavy rainfalls that helps reduce flood damage to a city’s infrastructure.
“Cities have a responsibility to their citizens and taxpayers to maintain a healthy environment for their communities, and that’s why the Forest Service and the city of McAllen go to such great lengths to organize Arbor Day events and promote its urban forest.”
The Apache Foundation has donated 150 tree saplings to give away, as well as t-shirts for the first 600 athletes who register.
For more information, contact Alemany at 956-968-5581.