“Trees are terrific…from every angle.”

The theme of this year’s annual Arbor Day art contest is aiming to teach local kids just that.

Each April, the Westerville Parks and Recreation Department, in partnership with the Westerville Shade Tree Commission, hosts an art contest to educate children on the importance of trees.

“Trees are such an integral part of the City of Westerville. Our community cherishes our green spaces and we want that same love of the natural world to carry on for the next generation,” said Matt Ulrey, Westerville Parks and Recreation Urban Forest Manager.

Westerville has been named Tree City USA for the 39th year, a prestigious recognition the City values.

“Westerville is one of only three cities in Ohio, and one of 16 places in the country, to consecutively receive this honor since its inception,” Ulrey said. “This truly shows how essential continued tree planting, maintenance and education is to us.”

Area schools have been participating in the Arbor Day poster contest for more than 20 years. Mrs. Norling, a fifth grade teacher at Hanby Magnet Elementary, encourages her students to take part each spring to capitalize on the learning opportunity.

“This year, as the students completed their Arbor Day artwork, we discussed the meaning behind the posters and what this special day means for us as citizens,” said Mrs. Norling. “We also compared our natural environment to the environments of other places in the world that do not have the luxury of many trees.”

Jaden Mapes, right, with her sister, Antonia, at the 2014 Arbor Day Poster Contest Award Ceremony at Everal Barn.

Jaden Mapes, right, with her sister, Antonia, at the 2014 Arbor Day Poster Contest Award Ceremony at Everal Barn.

In 2014, one third-grade winner from Hanby was Jaden Mapes.

“I was really surprised I won, but was excited. My sister encouraged me to participate because I like to draw and she thinks I’m a good artist,” she said.

Jaden’s sister was at the annual awards ceremony at Everal Barn to support her last year. Their father, Jerry Mapes, says both his girls have always been creative.

“I want the girls to be well-rounded. It is important for them to be outside, experience new challenges and be artistic. This contest is the perfect example of a positive outlet for them to do exactly that,” said Mapes.

Jaden, along with any other third, fourth or fifth grader living in the City or attending Westerville City Schools, has the chance to show off their imagination once again. Students can now submit a poster or a photograph, which is a new addition to the contest.

“We typically see photos from adults, but not children. In this day and age, with such easy access to cameras, it will be neat to see this kind of perspective from a child’s eyes,” said Ulrey.

As someone who is passionate about tree care, Ulrey enjoys being one of the judges for this competition.

Arbor Day 2014 - Jaden Mapes edited

Jaden Mapes stands with her 2014 winning poster above.

“Kids in Westerville come up with some really cool ideas,” he said. “Last year, many of the posters reflected the ‘Minecraft’ craze and the designs were very blocky. I’m excited to see what they create this time and how it relates to the specific tree topic.”

The deadline to enter the contest is Monday, April 20. The grand prize winner will have a tree planted in his or her name at school or a favorite city park if home-schooled.

And, even if you don’t fall into the contest age range, there are many ways to celebrate this coming Arbor Day.

“The benefits of trees are endless. I encourage you to plant a tree is possible or spend some time in a park on Friday, April 24. We will have free seedlings at the Community Center on Arbor Day for people to pick up and take home,” said Ulrey.

For complete details on the 2015 Arbor Day Art Contest, follow this link.