Did you know that the founding of Arbor Day in Florida is rooted in DeFuniak Springs? In 1885, the leader of the National Arbor Day Movement made a presentation on the Florida Chautauqua campus/resort grounds which inspired Florida Governor William Perry, who was in attendance, to later declare Arbor Day in Florida.
Today, City leaders participate in a tree-planting ceremony with leaders of the Florida Chautauqua Association honoring the famous or notable keynote speaker attending the annual assembly each January. This ceremony not only promotes the planting of young trees on the historic grounds but also teaches us about the historic individuals who joined in planting them. The City of DeFuniak Springs is also designated a Tree City USA by the National Arbor Day Foundation.
Below is information about recent tree planting ceremonies on the Florida Chautauqua grounds (also known as Chipley Park) on Circle Drive in commemoration of Arbor Day and in the celebration that "it all started here."
City and Chautauqua leaders broke tradition during the annual Assembly to honor the late Ewart Sconiers and all of the American Veterans with a tree-planting ceremony (instead of the featured keynote speaker). Ewart's remains were recently discovered overseas where he died as a WWII POW. Since his remains returned home to DeFuniak Springs at the same time as the Florida Chautauqua Assembly, local leaders decided to honor him and all American veterans with a tree-planting ceremony. Lt. Sconiers's remains were brought to the ceremony where his family, Chautauqua, and local, state, and Florida Forest Service leaders participated in planting the tree.
Child star Jerry "The Beave" Mathers of "Leave it to Beaver" joined with City, Chautauqua Association, and Florida Forest Service leaders in planting a tree in his honor on the north side of the historic Chautauqua Hall of Brotherhood.