The town's celebration of trees returned to Clarendon School on April 28, making the seventh straight year of honoring Arbor Day in Secaucus. Despite grey clouds and the threat of rain, hundreds gathered to mark a day for planting with songs and speeches. Along with county, town and school officials, members of the Hackensack Meadowlands Development Commission joined kids from the Secaucus schools to celebrate the rite of spring through art, music and tree-planting. Over the years, the event has gathered more and more people, starting out with merely a dozen at its inception in 1992 with as many as 700 participating in each of the last few years. "It's been getting bigger and better every year said Edna Duffy, a member of the town's Shade Tree committee. Also for the seventh consecutive year, Secaucus has been named a Tree City USA by the National Arbor Day Foundation. To become a Tree City USA, a community must meet four standards: have a tree board or department, a tree care ordinance, a comprehensive community forestry program and an Arbor Day observance. This year the town will again receive a Tree City USA Growth Award for demonstrating progress in its community forestry program. Chairman of the Shade Tree committee, DPW Superintendent and HMDC Commissioner Mike Gonnelli, said Secaucus has made great strides in protecting the town's urban forest over the last few years, and through the efforts of the shade tree committee, hundreds of trees have been saved, and hundreds of new trees planted. In fact, Secaucus has planted well over 2,000 trees since 1992. County Executive Robert Janiszewski spoke before a crowd of several hundred students complementing the efforts of Secaucus in providing a clean and sustainable community, noting that the town is a leader not only in planting trees, but also in recycling. "Arbor Day is about planting trees, but so much more," he said. "Each generation must take the earth as its trustees." Last year, the HMDC donated a nature garden to be constructed at Huber Street School, a passive garden area where students might admire the works of nature. This year, a garden was also started at Clarendon School. What is Arbor Day?
Arbor means "tree" in Latin. The first Arbor Day was celebrated in Nebraska on April 10, 1872. Jack Shuart, an assistant regional forester with the state Department of Environmental Protection, said Arbor Day was the dream of J. Sterling Morton, a man who managed to get the first day going 102 years ago in Nebraska. Now, the day is celebrated in every state. Morton, a Nebraska newspaper publisher, encouraged Nebraskans to plant trees to beautify and enrich the treeless state. He offered prizes for the most trees planted; over a million trees were planted on that first Arbor Day. After Arbor Day was made a legal holiday in Nebraska in 1885, agricultural associations and town councils spread the idea of Arbor Day in other states. A campaign also was inaugurated to make Arbor Day a school festival. Now, with activities that range from the planting of a single tree to the beautification of public grounds, children are learning the importance of forestry and reforestation. New Jersey has been celebrating Arbor Day since 1949, with the last Friday in April set aside by law to encourage the planting of trees. Tree City USA began as a 1976 Bicentennial project co-sponsored by the National Association of State Foresters and the USDA-Forest Service. The National League of Cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors are now co-sponsors as well. Cleaning up around town
After the ceremonies, kids and adults spread out to beautify the town. About a dozen people went to Fountain Park, where Edna Duffy designed and planted a butterfly garden. No children were involved in his aspect of the project. Huber Street School students cleaned around Schmidts Woods. The Secaucus High School Help Our Planet Earth Club planted near the Koelle Boulevard Park. Secaucus Middle School students raked and cleaned the western bank of the Duck Pond while Clarendon School students cleaned and raked around the ball fields on Clarendon School. Early on, Secaucus officials picked up on an old Native American Indian custom with its Adopt-a-block and Adopt-a-park programs. In some tribes, parents would play a tree for each child born and name the tree after the child. In the Adopt-A-Block is a program, residents can purchase trees for an entire block to help replace all the trees that the town has lost. Signs will now be installed on each of the designated blocks with small-attached nameplates identifying the individuals and organizations that contributed to the installation of the trees. "There was a time in Secaucus years ago when residents decided to cut down all their trees," said Gonnelli. This year, the town has raised $30,000 for tree planting, up from $17,000 last year.