Myra Arboretum volunteers hope residents give the space another look

Not far from Grand Forks is a place where volunteers have been planting hundreds of trees and shrubs, all for the enjoyment of area residents.

Joe Zeleznik and Diana Tveit plant a tree at the Myra Arboretum at the Larimore Dam and Recreation Center.

LARIMORE, N.D. -- With a couple of final pats of the freshly turned earth around a Prairie Torch Ohio Buckeye tree, Joe Zeleznik and Diana Tveit this week finished planting another tree at the Myra Arboretum at the Larimore Dam and Recreation Center.

Zeleznik, NDSU Extension forester and Tveit, a Larimore master gardener, are part of a group of volunteers who have planted more than 450 trees and shrubs at the arboretum during the last several years.

The 40-year-old arboretum at the Larimore Dam and Recreation area had become run down as the volunteers, including service club members, who took care of it had grown older and were unable to do the work. In September 2016, Zeleznik, Tveit, Esther McGinnis, NDSU Extension horticulturist; Steve Sagaser, former Grand Forks County Extension horticulturist, and about 40 volunteers from across North Dakota gathered for a work day at the arboretum. They spent their time planting and pruning trees.

During the three years since, volunteers have planted trees and shrubs, including manchu walnut, red maple and Douglas fir, which are rare,if not nonexistent in North Dakota. Purchase of the trees was made with North Dakota Forest Service grants totaling about $17,000.

“On our volunteer days, we’ve had master gardeners from every corner of the state,” Tveit said.


Most of the planting and removal of branches and dead trees was completed during the work days, but volunteers are needed for maintenance, Zeleznik said.

Though the big tree-planting push has ended, Tveit and Zeleznik would eventually like to set up a program through which people can plant a tree to honor a loved one.

The Ohio Buckeye tree planted June 14 was purchased by the Daughters of the American Revolution Prairie Grass Chapter in honor of the late Marijo Shide, a 43-year member of the organization from Larimore. Shide, who died in May 2017, was a civic booster who was involved in volunteer work across the United States.

The Prairie Grass Chapter chose the Prairie Torch variety because they knew of Shide’s love for the prairie, Tveit said

“May its deep roots symbolize the depth and endurance of the values that Marijo carried throughout her life,” Tveit said during a ceremony after the planting.

She and Zeleznik hope other individuals and organizations will follow suit. Not only can people plant a tree in memory of a loved one, but planting trees in areas where there are few or none could be a good project for 4-H clubs and high school organizations such as FFA, Tveit said.

She and Zeleznik also hope the work to give the arboretum new life will encourage people to use it more. The arboretum is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and could be used for picnics, weddings and other family gatherings, Tveit said.

The area also could be used as a teaching tool because many of the trees are labeled and if not, will be.


“School groups should be out here. Senior groups should be out here,” Tveit said, noting that paved trails make the arboretum handicapped accessible.

“It’s just a great place to hang out and walk through nature,” Zeleznik said. “The flowers in the spring are phenomenal. In the fall, besides the fruit, you get a lot of fall color.”

To volunteer or for more information, contact Zeleznik at: 701-730-3389.

Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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