The city of Hays and Fort Hays State University joined for the first time to observe Arbor Day together in a tree-planting ceremony Thursday morning in Frontier Park.
FHSU was named a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation for the first time for 2016, and joined with the city as each received flags for their appropriate designations for 2017. Hays has been named a Tree City USA for 39 years. District Forester Jami Seirer made the presentations.
Second-graders from Wilson Elementary School joined members of the City of Hays Beautification Committee, Parks Department and the community to celebrate with planting Osage orange trees.
Margie Hammerschmidt of the Beautification Committee told the crowd the history of Arbor Day.
The day was proposed in the 1870s by Nebraska newspaper editor J. Sterling Morton, she told the children. To encourage people to plant more trees, he suggested offering prizes to counties that properly plant the most trees on April 10, 1872.
“How many trees do you think were planted on that day?” she asked the students.
“One hundred and 20,” one student called out.
“More,” Hammerschmidt said.
The students shouted their guesses, increasing the number at Hammerschmidt’s encouragement — 2,000 then 3,000 then 5,000 then 8,000.
“Even more than that,” she said.
“One million!” several students shouted, hitting the right number.
In 1882, schools across the country began to participate in Arbor Day, and it became a state holiday in Nebraska in 1885. It became a national holiday in 1970.
Nationally, Arbor Day is celebrated on the last Friday in April, but some states observe it on different days.
Hays Mayor James Meier read the city’s proclamation. Parks Director Jeff Boyle and members of his staff then planted the trees, and along with retired district forester Jim Strine, described for the children the proper planting of trees.