The Rapidian

Celebrating Arbor Day, the Urban Forest Project plants 150 trees in Mulick Park

The Grand Rapids Urban Forest Project is a partnership between Friends of Grand Rapids Parks and the City of Grand Rapids invites the community to celebrate Arbor Day by planting trees at Mulick Park on April 29.
Planting demonstration by Friends of Grand Rapids Parks

Planting demonstration by Friends of Grand Rapids Parks /Courtesy of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks

Underwriting support from:
Tree planting

Tree planting /Courtesy of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks

Arbor Day 2013

Arbor Day 2013 /Courtesy of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks

In Michigan we know that our forests and trees are beautiful and special, but you might not know that the founder of Arbor Day, which is a legal United States holiday and is celebrated this year on Friday, April 29, spent the majority of his most influential years in this great state.

Julius Sterling Morton was a politician, author, editor, outdoors enthusiast, conservationist, and, most notably, the impetus behind the designation of Arbor Day.  From a very young age, Morton was passionate about nature, trees and the great outdoors. While he was born in New York state, he attended prep school in Albion, Michigan and, later, attended the University of Michigan. Shortly after he was married in 1854 he and his wife moved to Nebraska, which, at the time, had just become a U.S. territory.

The Morton’s Nebraskan homestead was vast, but described as a “naked prairie” with strong heavy grasses that formed tough sod which had never been broken. Morton’s wife had also spent her youth and young adult life in Michigan, where she too cultivated a great love and appreciation for nature, trees, and the outdoors. Together, the young couple began cultivating their homestead and planted numerous species of trees.

Morton would go on to, eventually, become the president to the State Board of Agriculture for Nebraska, where he urged that Nebraska, like his former state, Michigan, could become a powerful entity through the planting of trees, which provide both environmental and economic benefits.  

Morton proposed to the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture, that there be a designated day set aside in the year of 1872 for the planting of trees.  He proposed the 10th of April, 1872 and called it Arbor Day. This proposal was unanimously adopted and Morton dubbed this, “the battle against the treeless prairies.”  This event was so successful that Arbor Day was made an annual event in Nebraska. Arbor Day was eventually adopted by all U.S. States and many foreign countries, however due to regional climate differences, the exact date of Arbor Day is not always the same throughout the country or the world. The most commonly observed day is the last Friday in April.

Arbor Day continues to be celebrated throughout the U.S. and will be celebrated right here in Grand Rapids on Friday, April 29 by the Grand Rapids Urban Forest Project with the largest Arbor Day tree planting the city has ever seen. On this day, over 150 trees will be planted in and around Mulick Park by Urban Forest Project staff, Citizen Foresters, and numerous other volunteers. The event also marks the launch of the Mayor’s Tree of the Year. The festivities kick off when registration opens at 12 p.m. on the April 29. All are invited and welcome to attend and volunteers are still needed to help with the plantings. Learn more online at

Arbor Day unlike other holidays doesn’t celebrate the past, but instead it celebrates the future. Morton once said, “Ordinary holidays are retrospective. They honor something good and great which has been, and, by its exaltation, commend it to the emulation of mankind. Thus the past is made to inspire the present, and the present to reach into and influence the immeasurable and unknowable future. But Arbor Day contemplates not the good and the beautiful of past generation, but instead it sketches, outlines, and establishes the useful and the beautiful for the ages yet to come. It is the sole holiday of the human family which looks forward and not backward.”  

The Grand Rapids Urban Forest Project is a partnership between Friends of Grand Rapids Parks and the City of Grand Rapids which seeks to engage the entire community in growing a larger, healthier urban forest.


The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.