A Local Legend is Deeply Rooted in Falls City

Monday, April 02, 2018

Visit Stanton Lake Park and you will be greeted by the site of a beautiful, tree-lined lake with plenty of places to relax in the shade and picnic with your family. That wasn’t the case in the 1970s. In fact, when Don Baldwin and his family first moved to Falls City, their picnic at the park was a little too warm for comfort. That’s because Stanton Lake Park did not have any trees to speak of, especially near the picnic shelter. Fortunately, that one visit sparked an idea that has led to a lifetime of service. For over forty-five years, Don Baldwin has been planting trees at the park and throughout Falls City. This labor of love has transformed some of the city’s landscapes and made Falls City an even more beautiful place to live and raise a family.

Under Mr. Baldwin’s leadership, over 200 trees have been planted throughout the city. He has worked with volunteers and “green thumbs”, as he calls them, to plant oak trees, pecan trees, cyprus trees, and other varieties native to Nebraska and the surrounding states. As a founding board member for the Arboretum, he has worked to ensure that native Nebraska trees can be enjoyed by residents of Falls City, their guests and tourists.

Working Together

Mr. Baldwin will tell you that he didn’t do it alone. Over the years, residents and community organizations have donated money to purchase trees and some have even donated trees from their own yards. Many others in Falls City have taken up the call and helped to plant trees at their businesses, schools, and in public spaces. For example, through the Arbor Day celebration, teachers have been planting trees at the school.

The Baldwins

Just like his trees, Mr. and Mrs. Baldwin are firmly rooted in Falls City. Planting trees has been a true labor of love – one that has positively benefited the entire community. For some community members, this has been deeply personal. Glance towards the base of trees scattered throughout Stanton Lake Park and you may find a memorial dedicated to a community member’s lost loved one.

Planting over 200 trees is amazing in and of itself but one thing that makes Mr. Baldwin’s story so amazing is that he did this while working a full-time job at the factory and cleaning churches with his wife. Only instead of driving home to sit down and relax, he would grab several 5-gallon buckets, use the green garden hose to fill them to the brim and plop the buckets in the back of his truck for the slow drive around town. Then, every week, he would spend the next couple hours watering the trees that had been lovingly planted before finally heading home to relax with his wife, son and daughter. This was his life for over 40 years. He had a family, he worked hard at his job and yet he still found it within himself to do something that would add beauty and comfort for an entire town of people, not just for his family but for the entire town, not just for today, but for the future.

You Can Help

Though this work has been ongoing for over forty years, the work is not done. Some of the older trees need to be replaced and so money and volunteers are needed for that project. Additionally, Mr. Baldwin is hoping to have a plaque made for the American Legion Park where he has been planting trees to honor soldiers of WWII, Korea, and the Vietnam wars.  

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