This Arbor Day, April 29, tree enthusiasts have good reason and ample opportunities to celebrate.
The history of Arbor Day in the United States reaches back to the 1870s. Julius Sterling Morton, editor of the Nebraska City News, was an avid proponent of planting trees and often wrote on that very subject. Later, leveraging his role as secretary of the Nebraska Territory, Morton proposed designating a special day for Nebraskans to shovel up dirt and lay down fresh roots. The first Arbor Day was held on April 10, 1872, 150 years ago! Allegedly, a million trees were planted on that day.
According to research by Carbondale’s new arborist, Carl Meinecke, the tradition stretches back even further in Europe. In 1804, a local priest in the Spanish village of Villanueva de la Sierra convened the first modern Arbor Day celebration, inspired by festivals of yore.
The town of Carbondale, with Tree City USA designation requiring an annual Arbor Day activity, invites the community to Sopris Park on May 7 at 10 a.m. In addition to planting a tree, there will be free coffee and donuts, and the opportunity to learn about tree care.
Meanwhile, conservation nonprofits Aspen Valley Land Trust and Wilderness Workshop will be celebrating their 55th anniversaries with an Arbor Day event at Coffman Ranch on April 30. The bilingual event will feature a ponderosa pine and apple tree planting, along with take-home seed packets supplied by Seed Peace and other activities. Learn more and register online at www.avlt.org
“Trees still have immense value in our community by cooling spaces, cleaning our air, reducing stress and helping to support social connections in our public spaces, just to name a few,” Meinecke told The Sopris Sun.
Education around how to properly transplant trees is an important component of Arbor Day. Illéne Pevec, author of “Growing a Life,” understands well the importance of imparting this knowledge. She is teaming up with Crystal River Elementary School (CRES), Senior Matters and Aspen Tree Service to pair elders with children in the planting of eight trees at the school.
Three of these trees were donated outright by Aspen Tree Service, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. “Our goal is to plant 40 trees, as a thank you to our community,” said Chris Forman, consulting arborist for the company.
Five more trees were offered at discounted prices, and were purchased with donations made by seniors and through a Susila Dharma grant. Pevec has worked with Susila Dharma International in the past, planting trees in Brasil, Canada, Perú and México.
Together the students and seniors will plant ash, maple and honey locust trees to help shade the building. “We gotta get the kids dirty,” laughed Forman. They will pass these trees every day for years, and maybe one day, Forman continued “a few may have a career in tree service, too.”
CRES Principal Aimee Brockman spoke to how the day ties in with the kindergarteners’ curriculum, learning about trees and their relationships to animals. “Our big picture goal is using what [the students] learn to make the world a better place,” she said.
Pevec’s goal is to create a template, involving the community in planting trees for schools. “We need trees and more trees,” she said. “They’re a carbon sink, a thing of beauty, of hope, shade and life.”
Of course, it’s not only about where you plant, but what you plant.
Lisa DiNardo, horticulturist and certified arborist, suggests that people think about local pollinators when selecting a tree to plant this Arbor Day. DiNardo has a passion for public gardens and has worked for municipalities from New Castle to Aspen.
“We need to relearn to re-steward,” DiNardo told The Sopris Sun. “Native species co-evolved with specific plants [and] adaptation doesn’t happen in decades.” She compared non-native plant species for pollinators to plastic fruit on the grocery store shelves for humans. “Looks appealing,” but lacks the needed nutrition. “It can’t be just about us,” she continued.
One resource that DiNardo highly recommends is the National Wildlife Federation’s plant finder tool (www.nwf.org/nativeplantfinder). On the website, a prospective planter can enter their zip code to discover what species are indigenous to the area, and the number of pollinators that they sustain.
Given the “specific plant palette” for our semi-arid region, she suggests considering the characteristics that will be introduced along with a given tree. The more juicy, soft-bodied caterpillars that thrive, the more food the birds will enjoy, too.
“Greener communities are stronger communities,” DiNardo concluded.
Recommended Arbor Day reading: “Bringing Nature Home” and “Nature’s Best Hope” by Doug Tallamy and “Finding the Mother Tree” by Suzanne Simard.