Arbor Day Festival Salutes Trees
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Jake and Joey Wohlers, ages 9 and 6, from Beebeetown, Iowa, take it a little slower. Their mom, Amy Wohlers, says it’s a great experience. “We like to get outside to do things, to learn about nature and taking care of our Earth.”
Steeped in history, South Table Creek, which snakes through Arbor Day Farm, beckoned Lewis and Clark, notes Bev Nolte, director of activities at Tree Adventure. “Lots of the trees J. Sterling Morton planted came from this creek and, as pioneers came by, he would send saplings west with them.”
It’s a great place for bird watching, too. Located in an oak savannah between the Missouri River and a sprawling meadow, the farm showcases both grassland and river birds.
Everything here revolves around trees. A tasting event features apple and cherry wines. In a nearby greenhouse, the aroma of evergreen fills the air as workers bundle blue spruce saplings and lilac for mailing. (The center sends 1.5 million plants per year to Arbor Day Foundation members around the world.) Nearby, a discovery ride with a giant oak leaf canopy stands ready to carry visitors through a rare Preservation Orchard and deep into the nearby forest.
Next to the farm sits Arbor Lodge State Historical Park and Arboretum featuring Morton’s mansion, a carriage house, and 72 acres filled with every tree imaginable. Even so, new species are added each year. During last year’s event, the foundation planted two Tartarian maples: One honors local Girl Scouts both for preserving a grove of burr oaks and for reintroducing other native trees to their Camp Catron retreat; the other salutes volunteer firefighters.
All 50 states now celebrate some form of Arbor Day, Draper as Morton tells a group of children. “Some people thought Arbor Day was such a great day they changed it to Earth Day. And they picked April 22 to celebrate it, my birthday.”
A day of fun firmly rooted in conservation.
Trees absorb carbon dioxide and emit oxygen, provide energy saving, shade homes, and cut erosion while providing a renewable source of food, raw materials and beauty. They sustain human life, Draper notes.
“When I am portraying J. Sterling Morton, the audience reacts with a sense of reverence toward a man who was instrumental in turning prairies into landscapes dotted with trees and cities into tree-lined boulevards filled with shaded neighborhoods and abundant green playgrounds and parks.”
As planting continues, the Morton legacy lives on.
Writer Carol Crupper grew up near Nebraska City and caught Morton’s environmental spirit. On her return from Arbor Day, she planted four new trees and 53 shrubs at her home in Lawrence, Kansas.
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