Celebrate Arbor Day: Successes across the state


kids climb

Kids climb at Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison

Like a child grows from birth to toddler to adulthood, a tree grows from seed to sapling to mature tree. As we nurture and care for our children as they grow, we must also for trees. This year there were several Arbor Day celebrations hosted across the state, all aiming to increase the publics knowledge of how to cherish and cultivate trees.


Before looking at how trees and Arbor Day benefit our future, we should first remember how this day originated. The idea for Arbor Day came from a man named Julius Sterling Morton, from Nebraska. Morton and his wife were among the pioneers moving into the Nebraska Territory. Having lived in Detroit where they were surrounded by trees, they grew up being lovers of nature. In 1872, the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture accepted J. Sterling Morton’s resolution “to set aside one day to plant trees, both forest and fruit.” The Board declared April 22, Morton’s birthday, as Arbor Day. Today, Arbor Day is celebrated in all 50 states and around the world.

Not only Is Arbor Day celebrated in all 50 states, but communities across the nation are getting recognized as Tree City USAs (TCUSA), including communities in Wisconsin. Many incorporate receiving their TCUSA award with their celebrations. One of the four requirements to be considered a TCUSA is having and Arbor Day observance and proclamation. The Tree City USA program has been greening up cities and towns across American since 1976. It provides the framework necessary for communities to manage and expand their public trees. The other three criteria are having a tree board or department, a tree care ordinance, and a community forestry program with an annual budget of at least $2 per capita. Wisconsin remains 2nd across the nation for having the most Tree City USAs (TCUSA). There are also awards and recognition for utility companies (Tree Line USA) and campuses (Tree Campus USA).

Gilman Arbor Day with students

Gilman students proudly display 30 yr TCUSA flag with Urban Forestry Coordinator Don Kissinger

The City of Gilman was recognized for 30 years as a Tree City USA . This year Gilman celebrated 30 years as a Tree City USA (TCUSA). They are one of the oldest TCUSA in Wisconsin, showing their dedication to their community trees and the benefits their well-maintained trees provide the people who live there. The city had the school make cake for the staff and students with a tree on it celebrating the day and also the local grocery store made leaf cookies for the 4th grade students to enjoy. Part of their celebration educated the areas 4th graders on the biology of trees and the benefits they provide. Mr. Kuhs and his 4th grade class welcomed DNR’s Don Kissinger into the classroom to make a presentation on planting a tree. The students also had a poster contest; the winner was recognized by the Tree Board and their creation was displayed locally. There is usually a tree planting at the school, but due to the weather it was not an option this year.



Milwaukee residents planting a tree

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Public Works Commissioner Ghassan Korban planting a tree.

This year Milwaukee celebrated 100 years of building and growing their canopy. The Department of Public Works Forestry Division celebrated a century of stewardship of Milwaukee’s community trees. Not only was this a celebration for the Forestry Division’s anniversary, it was the city’s 53rd celebration of Arbor Day. The event had many wonderful features, planting 100 new trees in the park, sapling give-away, tree climbing and felling demonstrations, and awarding Milwaukee with their 39th consecutive TCUSA award.

Gilman and Milwaukee were not the only communities to celebrate Arbor Day this year. Plymouth celebrated 25 years as a TCUSA. Second grade students from St. John Lutheran School helped celebrate Arbor Day by creating tree posters, which will be displayed at City Hall. The City of Beaver Dam celebrated Arbor Day and Earth Day by planting a tree, cleaning up the downtown and doing some crafts. DNR Urban Forester Olivia Witthun presented their 27th TCUSA award. Elm Grove celebrated Arbor Day at Tonawanda Elementary and planted nine trees in recognition. Similarly, Fox Point planted hackberry in front of their school, Stormonth School, for Arbor Day and TCUSA. Williams Bay celebrated 17 years as a TCUSA. Students planted hundreds of trees at the Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy. Students at Parkway Elementary celebrated Arbor Day as part of Glendale’s 20th TCUSA recognition. Folks in Madison had fun celebrating Arbor Day with a kid’s climb and free saplings give-away. Lake Geneva dedicated a play structure and planted a tree to honor a long-time community leader as part of their celebration. Paddock Lake celebrated 19 years as a TCUSA community, but this year they celebrated with snowmen. Sheboygan had two rotary clubs (Sheboygan Early Bird Rotary Club and Sheboygan Rotary Club) help celebrate Arbor Day, the two clubs donated over $14,500 to the City of Sheboygan for tree planting. Applied Forestry Bureau Director, Carmen Hardin did a wonderful job speaking about the city’s urban forestry program, achievements and goals. These are only a few of the many communities that celebrated Arbor Day and TCUSA this year.


Arbor Day may be over, but it is never too late to plant a tree or care for those in your community. Caring for your community forest can happen any time of the year. Trees create a legacy as they grow and continued planting and tree maintenance will help build a legacy for generations to come. This Arbor Day saw many people get together to learn about trees and how community members can be a part of a trees heritage. J. Sterling Morton said, “Each generation takes the earth as trustees.” What will your legacy be for the future; how will you impact future generations?

students holding posters

Glendale students holding their posters.

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