At 9 a.m. Friday, the large sod plot at Scarboro and Sandy Hook roads near the Harford Waste Disposal Center was nothing but brown grass. Less than two hours later, the field was covered with hundreds of new tree saplings in their protective plastic tubing.
Many hands made light work of the massive tree planting project, as scout troops, conservation groups and assorted residents came in droves to the site of Harford County's remaining sanitary landfill for the county's ninth annual Arbor Day celebration.
Undeterred by the chilly April morning, more than 200 eager volunteers planted about 1,200 trees.
"The soil here is really good, and we are really expecting some good plantings," county planner and lead organizer Betsey Greene said, looking around at more than four acres covered with small colorful flags.
Each color designated a different species of tree, as the county typically tries to avoid planting a monoculture on its Scarboro properties. This year, volunteers were planting seven different species: elderberry, black locust, redbud, red-osier dogwood, silky dogwood, northern red oak and sycamore.
"The only problem is, we are spread out so much," Greene said about the large site, adding the timing of spring break for schools could have kept some people away.
"I suspect we will still get 300 [people]... Easter's coming early this year. I think more people were traveling," she said.
This year's event will raise the number of trees planted during the annual Arbor Day celebration to more than 10,000, Planning and Zoning Director Pete Gutwald said.
Harford County Executive David Craig, who came out along with several other county officials, said he applauded everyone who made the event so successful. Among those who joined Craig was County Councilman Chad Shrodes, whose district includes Friday's planting site.
Craig noted that Harford has one of the most successful tree-planting programs around.
"Harford County has a very good reputation for doing this because of people like you who help out," Craig told the crowd of volunteers
Several schools and other institutions were recognized for receiving the state's PLANT (People Loving And Nurturing Trees) award, including the town of Bel Air and city of Havre de Grace, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Harford Glen Nature Center and Jarrettsville, Churchville and Bakerfield elementary schools.
Parents, kids and teenagers in the field were ready to go after getting their instructions. Groups of Boy Scouts who had been trained in planting trees explained how to drive in the wooden stakes, attach them to the large, light-green tubes and put the saplings inside.
Those who were out for the first time seemed impressed by the event.
"As an activity, we will probably do this every year, because it's a lot of fun," Kelly Lyons, of Bel Air, said.
Lyons was planting trees for the first time, and had come with three children as part of Troop 238, supporting an Eagle Scout project. She said the event had a lot to teach to her children.
"I think it's good for the kids to learn how important it is to take care of the environment," she said.
Greg Vacek, of Abingdon, was also in the dirt along with his boys, 8-year-old Ryan and 5-year-old Matthew. He had joined his brother Eric Vacek, who was there with 3-year-old Grace.
"It's great to be part of something that 10, 20 years from now, we can look back, and be teaching our kids the importance of this," Vacek said, adding it is important to him to give back to Harford County, where he grew up.
He recalled fishing in nearby Deer Creek and cited the significance of shoring up the environment.
"You want to make sure that any run-off we have, that it gets cleaned up," he said.
Bridget Walter and Zach Murray had both come out on their own. They said their teacher at Aberdeen High School's Science and Mathematics Academy had told them about the event, as they were learning about trees.
"It's going really well," Bridget said about the planting. "I think it's worth it. Trees are valuable."
Murray added he liked the hands-on nature of Friday's activity.