When pioneer, nature-lover, and journalist J. Sterling Morton arrived with his wife in the Nebraska Territory in 1854, he found it to be a treeless plain. Noting the importance of trees for many reasons including fuel, building materials, and shade from the hot summer sun, Morton set about to do something about the lack of trees.
As a newspaperman (he was the editor of Nebraska’s first newspaper), he used his newspaper “voice” to share his views with his readers. Eventually, he would submit a resolution to the State Board of Agriculture asking that “a day be set aside one day a year to plant trees, both forest, and fruit.” The Board accepted his resolution and the first Arbor Day was celebrated in Nebraska in April 1872. More than 1 million trees were planted that day in Nebraska. From there, each year more and more states recognized Arbor Day. Today, Arbor Day is celebrated in all 50 states on the last Friday in April, as declared in 1970 by President Richard Nixon.
According to the Arbor Day Foundation, Arbor Day reflects a hope for the future; the simple act of planting a tree represents a belief that the tree will grow and someday provide wood products, wildlife habitats, and shelter from wind and sun. The hope is also to bring beauty and inspiration to ourselves and our children. Morton himself said “each generation takes the earth as trustees. We ought to bequeath to posterity as many forests and orchards as we have exhausted and consumed.”
What would a camping experience be without trees? Where would you hang your hammock? How could you find kindling for a campfire? Would a hike in the forest be as fun if the trees were sparse? What about pine cone crafts? Or apple-picking? The list goes on…trees are very important to the camping lifestyle.
So, on Arbor Day come out and celebrate trees. We have plenty of trees to celebrate throughout our campgrounds – from mango trees to palm trees, from mighty oaks to towering firs. If you can’t plant a tree, here a few other ways to celebrate Arbor Day this year:
- Take a “tree identification” hike
- Recite the poem “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer to your favorite tree while camping
- Play tree trivia
- Make the legend of Johnny Appleseed your campfire story
- Read aloud from The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
- Sing tree-themed songs around the campfire (Lemon Tree, Tie A Yellow Ribbon ‘round the Ole Oak Tree, Redwood Tree, Kookaburra, Humungous Tree, The Sweetheart Tree, In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree, Black Horse, and the Cherry Tree)
How do you plan to celebrate Arbor Day? Share your ideas and plans with us in the comments and remember to make your reservation to camp at Thousand Trails campgrounds this summer!