Only God can make a tree, but only Fairfax County, it seems, could make an Arbor Day celebration that included a reading by the 74-year-old son of tree poet Joyce Kilmer and essays by school children praising the leafy giants as highway noise barriers.

"Arbor Day," said Kelly Lyn Long, a sixth grader from Westmore Elementary, as she began her recitation. "If you plant a lot of trees near a highway," she said, "it will lower the noise by 20 to 30 percent."

Third-grader Krisztian Horvath's noon reading took an environmental tack. "If trees survived for millions of years," he said, "I do not think we should destroy them with our pollution and lumber companies."

For Kenton Kilmer, son of the poet and a resident of Fairfax County for almost three decades, the crowd gathered in the county's board room grew quiet. He read his father's 1913 ode, "Trees."

"I think that I shall never see," he began, "a poem lovely as a tree. . . " He went on to read the rest of the verses, the ones that few remember.

After his reading, Kilmer, a retired employe of the Library of Congress, called all trees "endangered species. People just naturally bulldoze them down."

Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) was present to shake hands with 37 elementary school students, future voters who missed school to see him and nine county supervisors close the ceremony by shoveling Fairfax topsoil over the roots of a cherry tree.

With all of the day's official good will to trees, it fell to second-grader Amy Rogers of Bren Mar Park Elementary to inject a note of realism. "Trees are nice to sit in," she read quietly. "Mostly, all trees survive."