ALPHARETTA, Ga. — It was about as far away from Arbor Day as you could get, but tree lovers from across the country were on hand Oct. 18 to reinforce Alpharetta’s love of green.

City and state forestry officials joined members of the National Arbor Day Foundation behind City Hall for a ceremony marking a major milestone in tree endowments for Georgia.

City crews added five large hardwoods along Haynes Bridge Road — two redbuds, two water hickories and an American beech.

The plantings were a microcosm of a major donation from the William Albertson family of Milton. Albertson, a lifelong advocate of tree preservation, was with his 12-year-old son, Riley, at the ceremony.

Albertson hooked up with Arbor Day Foundation Development Officer Tammi Thompson recently to learn more about conservation efforts in Georgia.

“We stepped forward and said ‘What needs help?’” Albertson said. “On one of her visits, we talked about it. Riley and I had done a conservation planning back in Illinois at a farm, where we took farm land out of cultivation and planted conservation trees, about 10,000.”

Thompson said one project the Foundation still needed help funding was a major reforestation effort in the Altamaha River Watershed in southeast Georgia.

“With their contribution, we were able to plant 17,000 trees, along with the five here,” Thompson said.

Thompson traveled to Alpharetta from the Foundation’s headquarters in Lincoln, Neb., for the event.

Albertson said he’s been involved with the Arbor Day Foundation since he was a child growing up in Illinois.

“It was the 10 free trees,” he said. “I suppose my mom started me on that, where you send in your annual membership, and they send you 10 free trees.”

He also said the foundation is a perfect vehicle to make conservation dollars stretch further.

“I know dollars, as an individual, don’t plant as many trees as Arbor Day Foundation can through their partnerships,” he said.

Deborah Zemlock, chairman of the Alpharetta Natural Resources Commission, said the tree planting is the type of endeavor residents want to see.

“This is a very special happening, where an individual in our community contacted the National Arbor Day Foundation to help him coordinate a tree planting in Alpharetta,” she said. “This is exactly the kind of thing we love to see... an individual taking the initiative to make a positive difference in our city and to build awareness of the need to restore tree canopy in our urban environment.”

Zemlock said she had only recently met Albertson, but it was evident from the start that he is committed to conservation.

“What I gleaned from chatting with him is that he is simply very committed to tree preservation and planting, both in our area, as well as back in his family's home state of Illinois,” Zemlock said. “He also mentioned that he had some land off Ebenezer Road that he had sold but first had put some of the old tree growth areas into a land trust for preservation. Pretty awesome.”

To learn more about the national Arbor Day Foundation, visit

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