Importance of Arbor Day not limited to history books

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Lisa Spilinek
  • 66th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
The fertile, forested landscape of Massachusetts may make some people discount the significance of the holiday, Arbor Day, and the message that planting trees is an important task of communities. 

Despite the high number of trees in the local area, Arbor Day has had a major impact on America's Midwestern states and also the nation as a whole. 

A little more than a century ago, Nebraska, the state where Arbor Day began, was considered a desert -- a vast prairie devoid of trees. People who ventured out into the unknown wilderness couldn't build traditional frame houses and had trouble finding material to burn for fuel because of the lack of wood. When they cleared the land of prairie grass to plant crops, the wind would blow the topsoil away because there were no trees to block it, states the Arbor Day Foundation Web site,

A man named J. Sterling Morton changed all of that. Mr. Morton, who was an agriculturist, journalist and political figure, proposed to the Nebraska Board of Agriculture that a special day be set aside for the planting of trees in 1872. The state first observed the holiday in 1874. It is estimated that more than one million trees were planted in Nebraska on the first Arbor Day, the site states. 

Now each state in the U.S. celebrates Arbor Day. Many, including the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, observe the holiday on the last Friday in April, the site states. 

Hanscom will continue the base's proud tradition of honoring the holiday with a tree planting ceremony April 27 at 10 a.m. in Castle Park. 

The benefits of planting trees were not limited to fulfilling the needs of Midwestern pioneers. According to the Arbor Day proclamation that was signed by Base Civil Engineer Chris Perkins, "trees can reduce the erosion of our precious topsoil by wind and water, cut heating and cooling costs, moderate the temperature, clean the air, produce oxygen and provide habitat for wildlife." 

The proclamation also states that "trees are a renewable resource giving us paper, wood for our homes, fuel for our fires, and countless other wood products, and trees at Hanscom help beautify our community and contribute to those intangible qualities which help us maintain a high level of productivity in our individual workplaces. Trees, wherever they are planted, are a source of joy and spiritual renewal." 

This year, two trees will be planted in commemoration of the Air Force's 60th Anniversary. The first tree planted will be the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' tree, an American Elm. The second tree planted will be the national tree, a Red Oak, which is considered a symbol of strength and endurance. This year's planting will also commemorate another historic accomplishment. 

For the 20th consecutive year, Hanscom will achieve Tree City USA status. To qualify for Tree City USA status, a town or city must meet four standards established by The National Arbor Day Foundation and the National Association of State Foresters. The town or city must have a tree board or department, a tree care ordinance, a community forestry program and hold an Arbor Day observance and proclamation, the site states. 

To learn more about Arbor Day or the benefit of planting trees, visit