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Arboretum to be renamed
November 25, 2016 Jerry Purvis   

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In a fitting tribute, the arboretum at Gering’s Northfield Park will receive a new name around Arbor Day 2017 – the Charlie Fenster Arboretum in Northfield Park.

It was usually a day close to Arbor Day when Fenster would join Northfield Elementary fourth graders in the park and explain the importance of trees in our environment.

Northfield Park, which was built in 1967, because the 35th affiliated member of the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum in April of 1986.

“The arboretum was established to demonstrate what trees will grow well here and which species won’t grow,” said Don Gentry, who served on the Gering Parks, Cemetery and Tree. Board with Fenster. “This is a tough area in which to grow trees.”

Gentry said Gering has a number of issues with the soil because it contains large amounts of limestone, so is very alkaline. “It’s not as hard to grow trees in Scottsbluff because it’s on a river bottom. Gering is on a slope of the monument so the soil is much different.”

Fenster, who spent most of his career with the University of Nebraska Research and Extension Center in Scottsbluff, was an internationally recognized expert on dryland farming. One of the major ways to avoid soil erosion in windy Nebraska is to plant trees.

“It was Charlie who really encouraged us to develop an arboretum,” Gentry said. “He believed trees are an asset to the community and we should know what species will grow here.”

There are more than 90 species of labeled trees in the arboretum and new ones are planted each spring as experiments to see how they adapt. Members of the Parks Board inspect the trees each spring and fall and have developed a list of recommended trees for planting.

“Charlie believed the key to keeping our trees healthy is to not depend on only a few species.” Gentry said. “We need to grow a variety of trees and that’s why the arboretum was developed.”

Fenster became a member of the Parks Board in the mid-1970s. Gentry’s father, Dr. Bill Gentry, was board chairman at the time. After the senior Gentry stepped down as chairman in 1980, Dr. Don was named to the board and Fenster became chairman. He remained in the position until his death in February 2016.

“We needed to recognize Charlie in some way for all he did for us,” Gentry said, “so we decided to rename the arboretum in his honor.”

Signage will be changed over the winter and a formal ceremony is planned around Arbor Day, the last Friday in April. They hope that representatives from the Statewide Arboretum and the Arbor Day Foundation will attend the ceremony. And as always, fourth graders from Northfield Elementary will be there to learn about the importance of trees.

Charlie Fenster
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