Kettering, with Smokey Bear ties, gets special tree from ODNR, celebrates Saturday

Kettering’s 17th annual TreeFest, plus the Tree Love event, focus on environmental education; Arbor Day is April 26

As Arbor Day nears, the state picked Kettering as the only Montgomery County site for a special tree planting to mark the 75th anniversary of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

A bit of luck may have been involved. But Kerri Miles said two events Kettering has planned Saturday also likely played a role in ODNR’s choice for the honor, which includes providing a tree for one location in each of the state’s 88 counties.

“It’s kind of random. For us, we were in the right place at the right time. Because we teach environment (education), we were taking a class that they were offering,” said Miles, environmental education supervisor of the Kettering Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts department.

“And we just happened to be there representing Montgomery County. And they said ‘Do you have any events where this would be suitable?’ … It worked out really well.”

The city’s 17th annual TreeFest and Tree Love are back-to-back events focusing on environmental education in honor of Arbor Day, which is April 26.

“I think that kind of sealed the deal,” Miles said. “It’s a huge honor and we’re lucky we got chosen.”

Kettering’s swamp white oak has already been planted at Habitat Environmental Center and Southdale Woods, 3036 Bellflower St. But a dedication is set for 11:15 a.m. Saturday during TreeFest, which runs from 9 a.m. to noon, according to the city.

The swamp white oak, which is native to the region, tolerates many conditions, but as its name suggests, it often thrives in wet soils, according to ODNR. The under-sides of its leaves are fairly white, contrasted with dark green upper-sides, sometimes creating a “bicolor” effect in breezy conditions.

Tree Love, a second-year get-together at Eudora Brewing Co. on Wilmington Pike, will go from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., according to the city.

It will include a visit from Smokey Bear, the iconic U.S. Forest Service character with a Kettering connection, city officials said.

The late Harry Richard “Dick” Black was a Kettering resident who contributed to the U.S. Forest Service’s Smokey Bear campaign in 1956 after several of his paintings appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, according to Dayton Daily News archives.

The U.S. Forest Service’s iconic wildfire prevention mascot was created by Albert Staehle in 1944, and Black painted the bear for 20 years.

The state’s forestry division has been a part of ODNR since the department was created in 1949, according to ODNR Director Mary Mertz, a native of what is now Riverside and a Stebbins High School graduate.


There will be events in each county marking the planting of swamp white oak trees provided by the state. Preble County’s event was April 7.

•Miami, 2 p.m. April 19, Tipp City Park;

•Montgomery, 11:15 a.m. April 20, Habitat Environmental Center and Southdale Woods, Kettering;

•Greene, 2 p.m., April 26, Central State University-Botanical Garden, Wilberforce;

•Warren, 5:30 p.m. April 26, Miller Ecological Park, Lebanon.

Source: Ohio Department of Natural Resources

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