The Maine Department of Conservation this week recognized the importance of trees in urban settings and the dedication of Maine communities to caring for those trees during its 2012 Maine Arbor Week Celebration.

Held on Tuesday at the Longfellow Elementary School in Portland, the celebration, sponsored by the Maine Forest Service (MFS), its urban forestry program, Project Canopy, and GrowSmart Maine, honored the civic devotion of several notable Maine residents.

During the event, participants recalled the memory of the late Frank Knight, former Yarmouth tree warden and guardian of the fabled elm, “Herbie,” who died earlier this month at the age of 103 and for whom Project Canopy’s “Excellence in Community Forestry” Award was named.

This year’s recipients of the award, Robert and Beverly Dutton, owners of Dutton’s Nursery of Morrill, were honored with a unique plaque made from wood from “Herbie.” The award was received by Peter Lammert, a close friend and retired Maine Forest Service forester, who acknowledged the recent Dutton donation of more than 1,000 trees to 60 Maine communities and non-profit organizations.

Speaking to several classes of young pupils present for the ceremony, Lammert told of his own experiences planting trees as a child and told the youngsters, “Trees take time.” He encouraged each pupil to plant a tree and take a photo of each year to measure its growth.

The youngsters later each received seedlings donated by Acadian Timber LLC, Irving Woodlands LLC and Central Maine Power Co.

Offering his comments, Conservation Commissioner Bill Beardsley reviewed the history of Arbor Week, saying it is “our moment to celebrate our bond with our trees.

“We plant trees by the thousands this week and remind ourselves of how the lives of Maine forests and people all intertwine,” the commissioner said.

Beardsley noted that “Maine forests, from veneer to paper to timber to energy and fuel oil and maple sugar are inseparable from the Maine way of life.”

The commissioner also recognized poet laureate Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, for whom the school is named, and presented Principal Dawn Carrigan with a chestnut seedling in remembrance of Longfellow’s famous poem, “The Village Blacksmith.” The poem begins, “Under a spreading chestnut tree/the village smithy stands …”

Doug Denico, Maine state forester and MFS director, commented on the significance and growth of urban and community forests, pointing out that an urban forest is “a place where trees and buildings come together.” He noted that nationally, urban forests have grown to five times the size of Maine, or about 103 million acres.

This year’s Arbor Week event was marked by participation by Longfellow School and its kindergarten-through-grade five pupils. The school is one of 22 Maine schools receiving Project Canopy grants. Melissa Riley, the school’s community coordinator, described the project undertaken by fifth-grade pupils to reduce playground erosion utilizing tree planting.

The grants are supported by U.S. Forest Service and by gifts from Central Maine Power Co., Androscoggin Bank, and Evergreen Federal Credit Union.

Lucy Tumavicus, a former Longfellow pupil and now a sixth-grader, read her essay, “My Favorite Tree,” stating that “sometimes the most beautiful things are staring you in the face, right in your own backyard.” The kindergarten pupils from music teacher Alyson Ciechomski’s class also performed several songs before an appreciative audience.