The annual Arbor Day celebrations will begin at 9 a.m. on Thursday, April 21 at Buchmuller Park in Secaucus with the planting of an American Basswood tree.
After that, staffers from the Department of Public Works will pick up 20 trees at NJMC bailer facility on Disposal Road in North Arlington, as they have done for three years. The other 19 will be planted throughout the town.
"There will be cleanups and plantings of pansies and other small flowers," says recreational director John Voli. "Secaucus has been a longtime winner of 'Tree City USA' [A national Arbor Day foundation]."
Arbor Day is actually April 19, but will be celebrated on the 21st to coincide with Earth Day that is April 22.
After the initial ceremony, the celebration will last all day. It will include cleanups at the five public schools, as well as the private Immaculate Conception School, the Immaculate Conception Church, and St. Matthews Lutheran church. There also will be a petting zoo at the park. Goats, chickens, geese and the star of the show, a llama, will be brought in from Swift's Farm in western New Jersey.
The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission's board allotted $24,000 to purchase the trees for 10 of the 14 Meadowlands District municipalities last week. Staff from the town's Department of Public Works assisted the NJMC staff in unloading trees and bringing them to their destinations.
The native shade tree was selected because of its sturdiness and the ability of its flowers to attract pollinators. Insects such as bees manufacture nectar from the flowers into high-quality honey.
The flowers also mature into round fruits that ripen in late summer. Birds and small mammals eat them in the autumn.
"The Basswood is known as the bee tree," says NJMC Public Information Assistant Nancy Benecki. "Bees love to come for the nectar."
The Basswood is a deciduous shade or street tree because of its fairly rapid rate of growth and fragrant flowers. The flowers hang from the middle of leafy, ribbon-like green leaves in long-stalked clusters. When they are mature, they exude a powerful, far-reaching scent during the last weeks of June and first weeks of July. The trees can grow up to 80 feet tall and become nearly twice as long as they are wide.
"These trees are a symbol of our commitment to our municipalities and to all of their green spaces," said NJMC Chair and New Jersey Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Susan Bass Levin. "We must nurture our urban ecology today so our children can enjoy the shade and clean air they will provide."
The idea for Arbor Day came from a Detroit journalist named J. Sterling Morton. While living in Nebraska in the 1870s, he advocated tree planting in order to serve as windbreakers, fuel, building material, and shade. He proposed a tree-plating day to the State Board of Agriculture in 1872. The tradition has spread to countries around the world.
"Trees provide many wonderful benefits to our Meadowlands communities," said NJMC Commissioner Leonard R. Kaiser. "By simply planting a few trees, our towns can drastically improve the quality of life for residents. Trees improve air quality, prevent soil erosion, and provide food and shelter for the wildlife in our residential areas. This program is a wonderful way for the Meadowlands Commission to mark Arbor Day."