Spring has sprung, which means it’s that time of year: Arbor Day.

Nationally observed on the last Friday in April (April 28 this year), many states also hold statewide Arbor Days to coincide with the best planting weather in their specific region.

Arbor Day has grown exponentially since its humble beginnings in 1872. For example, last year, through partnerships with the U.S. Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters, the 50 millionth Arbor Day Foundation tree was planted.

PHOTO: ARBOR DAY FOUNDATION

The Arbor Day Foundation boasts many programs, initiatives and resources all geared at increasing the world’s tree cover. The foundation is a 501 nonprofit conservation and education organization that was founded in Nebraska in 1972 by John Rosenow. It’s the world’s largest membership organization dedicated to tree planting.

Tree care pros have the privilege of serving as tree ambassadors to the public. From tree trimming to identifying diseases, tree care pros are the group of people homeowners, business owners and local governments turn to when they need help.

That’s why on April 28, Tree Services urges industry professionals to get involved in their local communities to share the legacy of the holiday just for trees.

History of Arbor Day

The first Arbor Day was April 10, 1872, in Nebraska. Julius Sterling Morton, a Nebraska journalist and politician who served as President Grover Cleveland’s secretary of agriculture, was a proponent of the benefits of wide-scale tree planting. While serving as a member of Nebraska’s state board of agriculture, he proposed that a day be dedicated to planting and promoting the importance of trees. On the very first Arbor Day, more than a million trees were planted.

Birdsey Northrop of Connecticut was responsible for globalizing Arbor Day when he visited Japan in 1883 and delivered his Arbor Day and Village Improvement message. In that same year, the American Forestry Association made Northrop the chairman of the committee to campaign for Arbor Day nationwide. He also brought his enthusiasm for Arbor Day to Australia, Canada and Europe.

In 1970, President Nixon made it official at the federal level by declaring the last Friday in April as National Arbor Day.

The Tree City USA program began in 1976, with 42 communities in 15 states honored. Today, more than 3,000 cities and towns are honored as Tree City USA communities.

Also, in 2008, the Tree Campus USA program launched as 29 colleges and universities were recognized for following best tree care practices on campus. Today, more than 250 campuses are recognized.

Photo: Danielle Lanning and Yelena Tischenko

Photo: Danielle Lanning and Yelena Tischenko

Did you know?

According to the National Wildlife Foundation, there are about 60 to 200 million spaces along our city streets where trees could be planted. This translates to the potential to absorb 33 million more tons of CO2 every year and save $4 billion in energy costs.

They said it

Planting trees does matter and can be a great way to create long-lasting memories for your family. Case in point: In February 2016, a woman named Paula Stahl posted the following message on the Arbor Day Foundation’s Facebook page:

“When I was 10 [years] old, we moved to a new home on my [grandfather’s] farm. Grandpa ordered spruce trees from [the Arbor Day Foundation], and he and I planted them together along our property line. They were small, about a foot tall. That was 46 years ago. Today, I can look out my window at them towering there. They provide a windbreak, shade, and are the home for many birds and critters. Thank you, Arbor Day Foundation. My own son is returning home from the Air Force this week …. he will inherit this place next. I think I will commemorate the occasion by ordering some more trees from you for us to plant together. He can look out on them 50 years from now… And smile!”

Celebrate as a tree care specialist

The first Arbor Day celebration was held 144 years ago, and while planting a tree is still the traditional way to commemorate the day, you and your employees can do even more to help spread the tree love in your community.

Consider working with a local school or scout troop to plant a tree on the school grounds or at a local park. ArborDay.org provides information on educational programs you can lead, including suggestions to start off by presenting the U.S. flag, reading the Arbor Day Proclamation, describing the history of Arbor Day and inviting the children to prepare and read poems or a play about trees. You could even raffle off a nursery gift card or seedlings so participants get the chance to plant a tree in their own yards.

Here are other creative ideas from ArborDay.org to celebrate the importance of trees with the community:

  • Organize a scavenger hunt and look for the oldest and largest trees in town, or find trees of different species.
  • Work with kids to produce a skit about trees and perform it for family and friends.
  • Have your team select a local park to clean up on Arbor Day, and host a picnic.
  • Donate books about trees to the local library.
  • Hold an Arbor Day picnic at your place of business; raffle off trees to clients.
  • The week of Arbor Day, hold classes about pruning, planting and tree selection and identification for the public.
  • Help neighborhood organizations host an Arbor Day block party.
  • Go on a hike with your employees and/or clients and identify trees as you walk.
  • Work with the town council to honor citizens in your community who are good environmental stewards.