Cherry Trees Grace Parks in Denver, Colorado, USA
On April 19, 2009, on the heels of a blizzard, some 150 SGI-USA members gathered under sunny skies at City Park in Denver, Colorado, USA, for SGI-USA Denver's 21st Annual Cherry Tree Planting. Local members planted 28 cherry trees along the southern shore of Ferril Lake, with support from the Denver Parks and Recreation Forestry Office and the Japanese Firms Association of Colorado.
Since the yearly tradition began in 1989 to commemorate the opening of the SGI-USA Denver Culture Center, local members have donated and planted more than 1,600 cherry trees. The cherry tree symbolizes strength and hope, enduring the hardships of winter to burst forth in renewed splendor each spring. Defying Denver's arid climate that offers little rain and severe winters, the trees, under the tenacious care of the local SGI members, have thrived and flourished. Every year, five species of cherry trees, including the celebrated somei-yoshino, bloom magnificently in parks throughout the city.
In his 2008 peace proposal, SGI President Daisaku Ikeda emphasized that people must recognize themselves as integral to a larger ecosystem of irreplaceable value and commit to its protection. "Such awareness is best developed through the kind of hands-on experience participation in tree-planting projects affords," he wrote.
Members traveled from as far away as Tennessee and Tokyo to participate. SGI-USA Vice General Director Brian Matsuo, who made the trip from Arizona, had received a message from Mr. Ikeda earlier in the week. "SGI President Ikeda, who himself planted a cherry tree at the Denver Culture Center when he visited in 1996, appreciates and commends the Denver members for their 'kosen-rufu' cherry trees," Mr. Matsuo said.
The cherry trees, which usually bloom in April, are located in several parks in the city, including the University of Denver Carnegie Green, City Park, Jacobs Park, Confluence Park and Washington Park.
Erica Kawabata, 12, shared that she especially enjoyed the moment when the tree was placed into the large hole she had helped to dig. "You can really feel like you have accomplished something," she said. "The tree planting was so much fun, and you get to see and work with other people. I'm really looking forward to next year."
Her mother, Masumi Kawabata, said that the annual cherry tree planting ceremony carries deep significance for her family. "A tree planted by my husband in the early years still blooms along Cherry Creek," she said. "It's 'Daddy's tree' and it will continue blooming 20 years from now. It's our collective contribution as a family toward world peace."
[Adapted from an article in the May 22, 2009 issue of the World Tribune, SGI-USA; photo courtesy of Laura Jaye]