Since 1992, thousands of trees have been planted, along the streets and in the parks, restoring those lost in previous decades due to blight, development or age.
Although programs for tree-planting run year round, Arbor Day has become a symbolic beginning of the tree planing season, and a general recognition of the importance of the environment to the town's quality of life.
Pat Cocucci, principal of Huber Street School, said this was "like the planting of seeds" that made Secaucus bloom into "a wonderful place to live."
Mayor Dennis Ewell, in a speech before several hundred kids from the public schools and Immaculate Conception school, said Secaucus would become a desert without trees, and paid tribute to the dream that made Arbor Day possible.
Arbor means "tree" in Latin. The first Arbor Day was celebrated in Nebraska on April 10, 1872. It was the dream of J. Sterling Morton, a man who managed to get the first day going. 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 through 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.
Jack Shuart, an assistant regional forester with the state Department of Environmental Protection, said he came here 12 years ago to see what he could do to help Secaucus with its dying trees.
Since then, Secaucus has committed itself to reforestation, and he is amazed today to return each year to witness the remarkable improvements made. As in each of the last eight years, Secaucus has been named Tree City, USA.
Tree City designation
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.
To become a Tree City USA, a community must meet four standards: have a tree board or department, pass a tree care ordinance, have a comprehensive community forestry program, and hold an Arbor Day observance. This year the town again received a Tree City USA Growth Award for demonstrating progress in its community forestry program.
Hearing from the kids
Natilie Franco, one of the kids who had come to witness the event, said, "Arbor Day is about trees. And Earth Day," which is celebrated around the same time each year," is about cleaning up the earth and picking up trash."
Franco said she loved the environment, especially animals, and that her favorite animal is a tiger. Natal.
Jean Gonzalez said he liked nature, too. And when asked what trees do for the environment, he said, "They give us oxygen."
Denise Fink said trees provide pencils and book shelves. Dana Galella said they also provide paper. Her favorite tree is the red oak. Justin Araujo said people should not cut down trees. Sean Delow said his favorite tree was the apple tree, and that he had studied their benefits in science class.
Kids also provided most of the day's entertainment, with singing from first grade students at Huber Street. Students sang the opening song, Clarendon School students sang an environmental song, and students from Immaculate Conception School sang the closing song.
Dr. Rick Purnell, doctor for the police and fire departments, won a Friend of the Environment award.
This year's poster contest winners were: Josephine Sosa, first grader at Clarendon School; Lauraine Prahm, second grader at Huber Street School; Brittany McFarlane, third grader at Huber Street School; Alexandria Farinola, fourth grader at Huber Street School; Rita Patel, fifth grader at Clarendon School; and Jaimee Chasmer, sixth grader at Immaculate Conception School.
The town received $16,292 in tree donations for its Adopt a Block program from various businesses in the town.