America’s State Trees Woodland Walk at Mines of Spain Recreation Area

            For now, a few dozen slender saplings, colorful panels and a trail mowed through a sunny hillside mark the beginning of a tree-lined vision. As those just-planted trees grow, however, they will someday shade a tribute to America’s woodlands.

With help from state park directors from across the country–as well as dozens of school kids and other volunteers–America’s State Tree Woodland Walk went from drawing board to reality on a hot, dusty day in Dubuque.

“It showcases state trees from all 50 states,” explains Angela Corio, park program planner with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources State Parks Bureau.

“The clusters of trees represent 44 states, with trees that will do well in Iowa’s climate. For instance, the eastern white pine is planted to represent the ten states which designate a ‘pine’ tree. The six states with trees which will not grow in Iowa are featured on the interpretive panels.”

The woodland walk planting was the highlight of the 2013 National Association of State Park Directors conference in Dubuque this month. A paved, half-mile walkway will wind through the trees and 18 tabletop displays; part of the development of 52 acres on the E.B. Lyons Center at Dubuque, adjacent to the Mines of Spain State Recreation Area. An overlook classroom, picnic shelter, youth group camp area and restroom will also be established.

“I’m going have my parents bring me back out here, so I can see my tree, and make sure it grows,” promised fourth grader Hannah Rowe, of Dubuque. “I helped plant an oak tree, the state tree of Connecticut and Iowa. We dug the hole, measured to see if the tree would fit, then dropped it in and put water on it.”

And while shade will be a priority, in the years ahead…there’s more to a tree than that.

“Trees benefit pollinators and birds,” noted Trees Forever founder and CEO Shannon Ramsey. “One large, mature oak will feed thousands of young birds in one season. They are essential for pollinators (through their buds and blooms). They come in before flowers bloom.”

Leading out the woodland walk will be an arch of 10 elm trees. That raised eyebrows, as some recalled the devastation caused by Dutch elm disease in the 1950s and ‘60s.

“Elms, Scotch pines were devastated by disease or insects. The emerald ash borer will take our ash trees,” acknowledged Corio. “There is a lot of concern now over hybrid maple plantings, too”

Since the elm wipeout, though, scientists have studied the few strains of elm which survived.

“They were hybridized and are now available. We can plant them again,” explained Corio…but with a strong caution. “Definitely, diversifying your tree planting is very important. The ‘take home message’ is to plant a variety of trees, to safeguard against diseases or pests which target one species.”

By Mick Klemesrud, Iowa Department of Natural Resources,