As the month of April approaches, the Hays Beautification Committee is making plans for the 2014 Arbor Day observation in Hays. The Hays observation is scheduled for noon April 17 at Fort Hays Municipal Golf Course. The community is encouraged to join in this observation where we will celebrate the continued importance of trees in our community.
The celebration will include the recognition of the 2014 Smokey Bear poster contest winners, and the city of Hays will be awarded the 2014 Tree City USA Aware, which marks the 35th straight year of receiving this award. The 2014 Arbor Day celebration will commence with the planting of three trees on the golf course.
The celebration of Arbor Day originated with J. Sterling Morton, who moved to the Nebraska Territory in 1854 from Detroit. He and his fellow pioneers missed the trees they enjoyed in their homelands. More importantly, they understood trees were needed at windbreaks to keep the soil in place, for fuel and building materials, and for shade from the sun. Morton was a journalist who became editor of a large Nebraska newspaper, where he spread his enthusiasm for trees and not only advocated for individuals to plant trees but also encouraged civic organizations and groups to join.
According to the Arbor Day website, "His prominence in the area increased, and he became secretary of the Nebraska Territory, which provided another opportunity to stress the value of trees. On Jan. 4, 1872, Morton first proposed a tree-planting holiday to be called 'Arbor Day' at a meeting of the State Board of Agriculture. The date was set for April 10, 1872. Arbor Day was officially proclaimed by the young state's Gov. Robert W. Furnas on March 12, 1874. In 1885, Arbor Day was named a legal holiday in Nebraska and April 22, Morton's birthday, was selected as the date for its permanent observance. During the 1870s, other states passed legislation to observe Arbor Day, and the tradition began in schools in 1882."
The most common date for state observances is the last Friday in April. But a number of state Arbor Days are observed at other times to coincide with the best tree-planting weather, from January and February in the south to May in the far north. Arbor Day now has spread beyond the United States and is observed in more than 35 countries across the world.
The HBC emphasizes the importance of trees since trees contribute to the environment by providing oxygen, improving air quality, preserving the soil and controlling erosion.
Trees in cities deflect the sunlight, thus reducing the heat island effect caused by pavement and commercial buildings. Most importantly, trees help to create a peaceful, aesthetically pleasing environment.
When selecting a tree to be planted in Hays, it is important to choose one that qualifies for the Hays Tree Rebate Program. These are trees that do well in the local climate and more arid conditions. The Hays Tree Rebate Program will be discussed more thoroughly in a future article.
Don't forget to mark noon, April 17 on your calendar, and come celebrate Arbor Day with us.
For questions or comments regarding anything discussed in this article, contact the Hays Parks Department at (785) 628-7375.
Janis Lee is vice chairwoman of the Hays Beautification Committee.