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The History of Arbor Day
“Other holidays repose on the past—
Historians trace Arbor Day’s origins back to the fifth century when Swiss villagers gathered to plant groves of oak trees. Adults turned the event into a festival, and children were given treats as a reward for their help planting trees. Arbor Day first appeared in the United States in 1872. J. Sterling Morton is credited with guiding this country’s first Arbor Day resolution through the Nebraska state legislature that same year. Residents of the plains recognized how much trees could do for them, and they enthusiastically embraced Morton’s vision. Over a million trees were planted in Nebraska on that first Arbor Day.
In Texas, Arbor Day first appeared in Temple on February 22, 1889. W. Goodrich Jones led the citizens of Temple in a mass meeting to call for a tree planting campaign along the streets of the city. One year later, the first statewide observance of Arbor Day was held in Austin. Through the efforts of Senator George Tyler of Belton, February 22nd was set aside, by law, as Arbor Day to “encourage the planting of trees in this state.”
After the original Texas Arbor Day law expired, the state continued to observe Arbor Day by proclamation of the governor, usually on George Washington’s birthday. In 1949, the state legislature adopted a resolution designating the third Friday in January as Texas Arbor Day. That date change, when, in 1989, the legislature designated the last Friday in April as Texas Arbor Day in order to align the Texas observance with the traditionally observed national Arbor Day.
Each year, the Governor proclaims the last Friday in April as the official state Arbor Day, and the Texas Forest Service, in cooperation with a myriad of tree advocacy groups and individuals, conducts the official state ceremony in a host city. The ceremony moves around from place to place to reach audiences all over the state. Competition among cities to be the host city has become quite fierce.
Thanks to the diversity of this state, Arbor Day is celebrated in Texas communities anytime from November through April. Houston and many of its neighboring communities continue to observe Arbor Day on the third Friday in January. In South and Central Texas, many cities celebrate Arbor Day during February. Fort Worth celebrates for the entire month of February. Dallas decided to break with tradition altogether and celebrate Arbor Day in mid-November.
Arbor Day in San Antonio was celebrated for many years with tree planting ceremonies at the San Antonio Botanical Garden and other public facilities conducted by the San Antonio Men’s Garden Club and the local chapter of the Texas Native Plant Society. Although not officially recognized by the City of San Antonio, these ceremonies were well attended and offered participants the opportunity to share their mutual love for trees.
During the administration of Mayor Howard Peak, the city arborist, with support from the Texas Forest Service and many other environmental groups, asked Mayor Peak to proclaim the first Saturday in February as San Antonio Arbor Day. This was done to satisfy the first standard provision to become a national Tree City, USA, as well as to mirror the appropriate tree-planting season for San Antonio.
In 2003, the Alamo Forest Partnership organization resolved to make San Antonio Arbor Day a celebration to remember. On February 7, 2004, City Public Service, which was a founding member of Alamo Forest Partnership, donated 1000 one-gallon trees to the public. Other member groups provided labor and information booths at the Central Library. This year, Alamo Forest Partnership again celebrated Arbor Day in grand fashion on February 5th at the Sonny Melendez Community Center with a tree planting ceremony, food and information booths, and 1,000 trees donated by CPS.
Above all, Arbor Day is a time for children, parents and grandparents to strengthen the bond between generations by planting trees together. It presents a tremendous opportunity to teach fundamental lessons about stewardship of our natural resources and caring for our environment. There is no more powerful demonstration than helping children plant and care for trees that their own children and grandchildren will enjoy.
In order to ensure that a tree planted today lives far into your grandchildren’s future, it is critical to plant it correctly. Here are the Seven Perfect Steps for Perfectly Planted Trees:
1. Purchase a tree that has a single trunk, lots of leaves,
no broken or disfigured branches and a large, firm root ball.
After planting, you should:
1. Apply 7-10 gallons of water slowly over the entire
planting zone whenever the soil is dry.