Providence Forum at the STIHL Tour des Trees

This August, members of the Board and staff of the Providence Forum had the opportunity to participate in the STIHL Tour des Trees. The STIHL Tour des Trees, an annual week-long, 500 to 600-mile cycling adventure, is the primary public outreach and engagement event of Tree Research and Education Endowment Fund (TREE Fund). Since 1992 Tour riders have cycled to communities in the U.S., Canada and the U.K, planting trees, educating children and shining a light on the work done by arboriculture professionals and the importance of science-based tree care. 

Full-Tour cyclists commit to raising at least $3,500 for TREE Fund, and 100% of what they raise supports research grants, scholarships and arboriculture education programs administered by TREE Fund. The legacy of the STIHL Tour des Trees includes an ever-expanding urban forest planted by its cyclists and a growing legion of civilian tree stewards in the communities along the route.

As the riders travel between 80 to 100 miles per day, they make periodic stops along the way to plant trees, celebrating the plantings by a special ceremony that invests energy into the roots for the plants to grow. At the historic Pohick church in Lorton Virginia, John Kenyon and Peter Lillback had the privilege to dedicate a liberty tree bud grafted seedling as a part of our Liberty Tree program. 

The Pohick church was where George Washington served as a vestrymen and churchwarden in his early years of his life. He actually surveyed the ground to determine where the church should be built (where it remains to this day), had his own pew, helped pay for the communion wine, and helped to lead the church in various ways. 

As the tree was planted, Peter Lillback had the opportunity to deliver remarks to celebrate the history of the liberty trees from the first tree in the Boston Common in 1765 to the last Liberty Tree that came down in 1999 by hurricane Floyd that had stood on the grounds of St. John’s College in Annapolis Maryland for some 600 years. He shared the fact that George Washington knew well the story of the liberty tree, as it was something that was part of the vocabulary of the founding era of America. Further, after the remarkable energizing ceremony for the new tree that included clapping, singing, swaying, waving hands and fingers to energize the roots of the tree, he related a further history point.

Namely, that George Washington as an historic Anglican–Pohick is an historic Anglican Church–when he took the oath of office, not only did he have his hand upon the Bible, but he also followed the historic Anglican custom of bending to kiss the Bible on taking such an oath. So at the end of the dedication ceremony Peter bent over and kissed the tree on one of its leaves in the hopes of providing some love and energy and a little bit of Washington history for this planting.

We are grateful that we could participate in this wonderful opportunity to help preserve our legacy of the liberty trees and the heroes that throughout the ages have stood underneath these trees to defend the liberty that we cherish. For after all, liberty is very precious and its price is nothing less than eternal vigilance.

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