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Arbor Day has its roots in Nebraska, but is celebrated nationwide. More....

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QuestionWhat is our national tree? (see answer at end)

Arbor Day has its roots on the treeless prairies of Nebraska.  Despite plenty of good farmland, which they were actually giving away (160 acres per homesteader), not too many people were keen on living there.  In part this was because there was almost no wood for construction or fuel.  Many pioneers had to live in sod houses, which had dirt and insect issues and did not fare well in rainy weather.  Then J. Sterling Morton, a newspaper editor, came up with Arbor Day as a way to encourage people to plant trees. 

Planting a tree for arbor day. Photo by Tim Green
A child plants a tree on Arbor Day. Under the Fourth Grade Foresters Program, each fourth grader also gets a tree of their own to plant and care for at home. To get involved, contact Debra Ersch at (402) 475-5507, or email dersch@ftanddp.com. Photo courtesy of Tim Green.

The first official event was held on April 10, 1874.  It is believed that more than one million trees were planted in Nebraska that day.  By 1894, all states had passed legislation to observe Arbor Day. Dates vary to take advantage of the best tree planting weather.  In Connecticut, Arbor Day is celebrated the last Friday in April.

Arbor Day has evolved.  Last year, more than 1,000 children planted a tree as part of “Fourth Grade Foresters of Connecticut.” This project was started in 2004 to revitalize observation of Arbor Day in schools.  Lisa Davidson of Woodstock, who sponsors trees for the Pomfret Elementary School, got involved because “as a realtor, too often I see developers buy land and automatically cut down all the trees to build houses that then sit naked to the hot sun and cold winds, surrounded only by a thirsty lawn. I applaud the new homeowner that I see out on the weekend planting a tree… but it seems sad that so many were cut down in the first place. The Fourth Grade Foresters project has provided me with the opportunity to share my commitment to the environment while giving something back to the Earth,” she said.

Community business people like Davidson cover the expense of trees, so there is no cost to students, teachers, schools, or taxpayers. The Free Trees and Plants Project gets unsold, high-quality plants that would otherwise be destroyed from growers, hires workers with disabilities to individually package them, and then sends the plants to anyone who orders them at www.freetreesandplants.com.

Arbor Day has also gone electronic via the Facebook Tree Planter at www.beatreeplanter.com. For a dollar, users can send the virtual gift of a tree to a friend or network.  Each virtual tree given and planted in the “Facebook Forest” is matched with a real tree, planted in a real forest. Members of the nonprofit Arbor Day Foundation plant them along with millions of other trees each year.  Everyone who joins the Foundation also gets ten free 6-12 inch trees (with planting instructions) that are guaranteed to grow. 

Trees conserve energy which saves money. The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day, according to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.  By slowing cold winter winds, trees can also cut heating costs by 10 to 20% percent.  In addition, trees help clean the air, rivers and streams by producing oxygen, and removing carbon dioxide (a major contributor to climate change) from the atmosphere.  Their roots hold soil in place, which prevents erosion. They provide nesting sites, food and cover for wildlife. Trees around a house can increase its value by up to 15% or more.  They also make homes and neighborhoods more beautiful.     

If you want to plant a tree in your own yard in celebration of Arbor Day, visit a local nursery.  Their experts can help you select the right tree, based on the local climate, height, spread, soil and sun requirements. As the saying goes, “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago… the next best time is today!”

Answer:  In 2004, Congress passed legislation designating the oak as our national tree.  

Photo caption:  A child plants a tree on Arbor Day.  Under the Fourth Grade Foresters Program, each fourth grader also gets a tree of their own to plant and care for at home. To get involved, contact Debra Ersch at (402) 475-5507, or email dersch@ftanddp.com.  Photo courtesy of Tim Green.


Volunteers Wanted: French River Buffer Planting May 10th

Thompson Together, the Town of Thompson and the French River Buffer Committee need volunteers for the French River Buffer Project in Riverside Park on Rt. 12 across from the Thompson Town Hall.  The big planting day is Saturday, May 10th at 10a.m.  Please bring shovels, rakes, wheel borrows, buckets and watering cans. 

They also need the following native plant species with quantities indicated:  Butterfly Weed (7), Switchgrass (7), Gay Feather (3), Dwarf Fothergilla (2), Flame Azalea (1), Lowbush Blueberry (6), Meadowsweet (2), Mountain Laurel (2), Native Azalea (2) Sheep Laurel (6), Steeplebush (2), Viburnum (2), and Winterberry (1).

For more information, contact Kevin Kennedy, Director of Planning & Development for the Town of Thompson at (860) 923-9475.


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Originally published in the Villager newspapers on April 25, 2008



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