In 1872 in Nebraska City, Nebraska, J. Sterling Morton had the idea to set aside a day for planting trees to improve the environment and beautify the landscape. On what became the first Arbor Day, 1 million trees were planted. Today, the holiday is more important than ever as people better understand the critical benefits that trees provide. This year Arbor Day takes place on Friday, April 24.
“Arbor Day is important because people take trees for granted,” says Courtney Blashka, director of community forestry and conservation. “Planting trees is a great way to combat so many issues and draw attention to the myriad of benefits trees provide.”
“In addition to beautifying the landscape, trees also provide an abundance of social, economic and environmental benefits, including combating climate change, stabilizing soil, cleaning the water, cooling pavement, providing food, reducing asthma rates and so much more,” Blashka says.
“Arbor Day is a great way to kick off the tree-planting season and share our knowledge about tree selection, planting and care. We want people to know we are a resource for them so they plant the right types of trees in the right places,” Blashka says.
“It’s a way to not only plant trees and beautify the neighborhood, but also for community members and partner organizations to get to know one another and really connect,” Blashka says. “People really enjoy planting trees, and it helps beautify their neighborhoods. It’s a matter of civic pride.”
Last year, HF&G helped plant more than 50 trees on vacant lots in Slavic Village, co-hosted an educational element and distributed trees to residents. Local tree care companies also participated by removing dead and dying trees to make room for the new ones.
“We are working with Coalition partners to create a festival-style celebration and are even competing with Pittsburgh to see which city can plant the most trees”, Blashka says. “We strive for equitable tree planting and select neighborhoods most in need and in places where they will provide the most benefits and return on investment.”
Blashka says the pressures of climate change, pests, diseases, development, budget cuts and an aging tree population are all factors that contribute to the trend of canopy decline in Cleveland. Our efforts on Arbor Day and beyond will help reverse this trend and create a more resilient urban forest.