My Turn: Think trees: celebrate Arbor Day

Posted: Monday, May 12, 2003

Arbor Day is an annual observance celebrating trees in our lives and promoting tree planting and care. Arbor Day is celebrated in Alaska on the third Monday in May. On this day, reflect on the beauty of trees but also think about the benefits trees provide in our neighborhoods. Trees improve our air and water quality, reduce erosion, shelter us from cold winds and blowing snow, and provide habitat for wildlife. Trees in towns can screen unsightly structures and activities. They can give privacy and help reduce noise from traffic and industry. Towns with beautiful trees are more attractive to residents, visitors and businesses.

The idea for Arbor Day began with Julius Sterling Morton, a pioneer who moved into the Nebraska Territory in 1854. He was a journalist who spread agricultural information and his enthusiasm for trees through Nebraska's first newspaper. Morton was not only a nature lover; he and his fellow pioneers needed trees for windbreaks, shade from the hot prairie sun, for building materials and for fuel.

Morton encouraged everyone to set aside a specific day to plant trees and in 1872 the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture accepted a resolution by Morton "to set aside one day to plant trees, both forest and fruit." More than 1 million trees were planted in Nebraska on the first Arbor Day, April 10, 1872.

Shortly after, other states passed legislation to observe Arbor Day each year, and by 1920 more than 45 states and territorial possessions were celebrating the value of trees on Arbor Day. Today Arbor Day is celebrated in all 50 states and several countries around the world.

Arbor Day is an excellent opportunity to evaluate the trees on your property and plan for the future. Inspect your trees for broken branches or evidence of disease or insect infestation. Consider planting new trees that might improve the look of your property or provide wind protection.

Before planting a tree, check all around you. Are there utilities above or below ground? Will the tree interfere with vehicles or pedestrians? Is there plenty of room for it to reach its mature size? Take a trip to your local nursery to see what's available and to get new ideas.

Choose a variety of species to create an ever-changing display of colors and textures. Enjoy blossoms in the spring, colorful leaves and berries in the fall, and interesting bark and evergreen leaves in the winter. Plant your tree where it has space to live a long life and remain healthy and safe.

On Saturday, May 17, join the Juneau Urban Forestry Partnership in planting four trees at the Millennium Grove to celebrate Arbor Day. Meet on Calhoun Street above Fireweed Place at 4 p.m. Everyone is welcome. Cookies will be provided. Details are available at 364-2536.

J. Sterling Morton, the father of Arbor Day, wrote, "Each generation takes the earth as trustees. We ought to bequeath to posterity as many forests and orchards as we have exhausted and consumed." Celebrate Arbor Day. Plant a tree.

Ida Ottesen and Sondra Stanway represent the Juneau Urban Forestry Partnership.

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