Beginning the year with obtainable goals helps push us toward our best selves. Mahr Park Arboretum wants to be the best version of itself by the end of the year, as well.

Currently, Mahr Park is a level-one arboretum through its accreditation with ArbNet, an international network of tree-focused professionals.

When the park reached its level one status, they had to identify and label 25 or more woody plants. They also had to create an organizational or governance group and host at least one event per year.

To reach its next goal, level two, the park will have to label 100-plus woody plants, hire paid management, host at least one event, have enhanced public and educational programs and have a collections policy.

"We're accredited through ArbNet, and there are four levels," said the park's Development

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Coordinator Donna Sticklin. "We want to get the community engaged and to start working toward becoming a level two, which means we'll need to identify and tag more tree species and satisfy several other requirements to get there."

The arboretum will get help from educated volunteers and the Kentucky Division of Forestry to label and identify the 100-plus species.

"I asked (KDF) if we can start identifying species, and they said they'd be happy to help," said Stricklin. "That would be a project that may have to wait until the trees leaf out, so they can get a better identification and make sure that's exactly what that species is."

Stricklin also said she would love help from the community and from people who are qualified to identify woody species.

"If we find a tree, we have to have a correct identification. Somebody has to be knowledgeable enough and be an expert enough to say that is a tulip poplar or that's a white oak, or that's a post oak, or that's a sycamore," she said. "They have to be able to look at the bark and leaves and determine what type of tree or woody species it is."

Once the trees and woody plants are identified, the park will utilize more volunteer help to label the trees.

"We're using a metal labeling plate that, on a fully-mature tree, you use two screws. You screw it in, but the screw has an expansion spring in it, so the tree has room to grow," Sticklin said. "On a newly planted species that's young and not fully matured, we would hang a tag from a branch or a stake in the ground. Volunteers will help us do those jobs."

After labeling the identified species, Stricklin said they will need volunteers to help geotag the trees. This way, they can identify which quadrant of the park a specific tree is in, as well as one day creating an interactive map so guests can go into the park finding each of the different species, she said.

Throughout the year, the park plans to work on the process of collecting the data and submitting it to ArbNet for approval. If approved, ArbNet will bump the park to a level two, said Sticklin.

The park's ultimate goal over the next five to 10 years is to reach level four status.

"When we applied for the park's 265 acres to become an accredited level one arboretum, it was with the plan to grow and work toward the ultimate level four status," she said. "Trees are an extremely important and critical component of our environment. It has been wisely said that the trees we are planting today are not so much for us to enjoy as they are for those in future generations to enjoy."

Those interested in volunteering can call 270-584-9017 for more information regarding the volunteer application process.

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