SWCD sponsoring photo, big tree contests

Amber Gillenwater

August 7, 2014

GALLIPOLIS — The Gallia County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) is again sponsoring their annual photo and big tree contests this year, and officials with the organization are encouraging the community to take part.

The deadline to enter third annual SWCD photo contest is Sept. 5, and all photos must follow the “native plants of Gallia County” theme.

According to Gallia SWCD Education coordinator Erica Preston, the photo contest allows the organization to reach out to members of the community who may not otherwise contact their office, and also generates photos that can be used in the SWCD’s annual calendar.

“We like to involve the whole community and reach out to all groups of people. You don’t have to be a farmer to work with our office,” Preston said. “We also use this as our calendar that we give out to everyone at the annual banquet for upcoming event dates for the year.”

The “native plants of Gallia County” theme also fits in perfectly with the goals of the SWCD office, according to Preston, as they continue to educate the community about the native plants of the area, as well as more invasive species.

“One of our missions is to conserve the native plants in our area, so having the public look for them and identify them is part of our education too,” she said. “We try to help gardeners and farmers look for the invasive plants to eradicate them so the native species can be around for future generations.”

Officials with Gallia SWCD are encouraging photographers of all ages, whether they be professional or amateur, to participate in this year’s contest. First division photographers will be categorized as age 19 years and over and second division photographers can be students in seventh-12th grades.

“Its free to enter. If you are not sure about the plant being native or not, we are willing to look it up for you, but we really hope that you enter so we can have a beautiful calendar again this year,” Preston said. “We do have a professional photographer come and judge the pictures, but as long as you follow the theme and the instructions on the entry form, you’ve got a chance to win cash. We hope that you enjoy taking pictures of Mother Nature as our intentions are not to stress you out about the contest.”

All photos must be 4-inches by 6-inches in size, and the date the photo was taken, name of the native plant and the photographer’s name must be printed on the back of each photo.

The prize money, which includes a $100 prize for first place, $50 for second place and $25 for third place, will be awarded during the annual meeting/banquet of the Gallia SWCD that will be held this year on Nov. 14.

To enter a photo in this year’s SWCD photo contest, contact the SWCD at (740) 446-6173 or visit their office in the C.H. McKenzie Agricultural Center, 111 Jackson Pike, Suite 1569, Gallipolis.

While the annual photo contest is in its third year, the SWCD is also proud to announce the continuation of their much older annual contest: the Big Tree Contest. The first record of the contest is in 1992 when the contest was open for Hickory trees. This year, any Black Gum tree in Gallia County can be nominated and will be measured for their heighth and width, with the largest tree taking the prize this year.

Trees are a very important resource, according to Preston, and the big tree contest provides an opportunity for the SWCD to encourage the preservation of the area’s trees and forests.

“Our main mission is to conserve our natural resources and forestry is one of them. We hope this encourages the public to identify their trees and let them grow to be huge,” Preston said. “The O.O. McIntyre Park District helps sponsor this contest and they agree that trees are important for our environment. Trees give us oxygen to breathe, help hold creek banks together and help prevent erosion, are important wildlife habitats, provide shade and numerous forest products like paper, pencils, syrup, gum, rubber, nuts and fruits.”

Each year, SWCD chooses a different species of native tree to feature in the Big Tree Contest and the Black Gum tree, also known as the Black Tupelo and by other names, can grow to 30-50 feet in height with a 20-30 feet spread. It has a slow to medium growth rate and has an oval rounded shape with dark green, glossy leaves. The black gum also produces a small, bluish-black fruit that is well-loved by many birds and wildlife.

Deadline for the nomination of a tree is Friday, Oct. 7. The official nomination form must be submitted to the Gallia SWCD, or to the O.O. McIntyre Park District Office at the Gallia County Courthouse.

The big tree award will also be given at the annual SWCD meeting/banquet on Nov. 14. The nominated tree does not have to be on the property of the nominator. The winning landowner will be presented a plaque and the nominator will be presented at tree identification book.

All nominated trees will be measured by district personnel.

For further information, contact Cory Seymour or Nick Mills at the SWCD at (740) 446-6173 or the O.O. McIntyre Park District office at (740) 446-4612.