This Week’s History Quiz Question: this Arbor Day, Chestertown is celebrating how many years of participation in the Tree City, USA, program?

A. 20 years
B. 30 years
C. 40 years
D. None of the above

This Week’s Answer: C. 40 years

The Tree City, USA program was established by the Arbor Day Foundation in 1972 at the time of the 100th anniversary of the founding of Arbor Day.

Originating in 1872, Arbor Day was the inspiration of Julius Sterling Morton, a pioneer who moved from the East to Midwest and settled in Nebraska to farm a large tract of treeless land. Without trees to block the wind, his fertile topsoil literally blew away. The land was parched, and living without trees was unproductive and unpleasant. He missed the trees at former homes, and didn’t realize all their benefits until he was without them.
He planted profusely and, through his position as a member of the Nebraska Board of Agriculture, became a strong advocate for arboriculture.

The concept was accepted widely in Nebraska, but it took years before Arbor Day programs and wide-spread planting of trees won national support and included all states. The dates of Arbor Day vary across the nation. Maryland’s first celebration was in 1889. It has always been very popular with school children. The H. H. Garnet Elementary School usually celebrates Arbor Day, but this year with limited attendance and constant COVID-19 concerns, an Arbor Day celebration will have to wait.

However, mark your calendars! The state has declared Friday, April 30th, Arbor Day. Chestertown’s Town Manager Bill Ingersoll won’t divulge any details as yet, but did reveal that “Chestertown has planned an exciting Arbor Day for all.”

At the centennial commemoration of Arbor Day, in 1972, the Arbor Day Foundation was introduced, which included the inauguration of the national Tree City USA program. To become a Tree City, four standards set out by the Arbor Day Foundation and the National Association of State Foresters must be met. They include: Establishment of a Tree Board or Department, a Tree Care Ordinance, a Community Forestry Program With an Annual Budget of at least $2 Per Capita and An Arbor Day Observance and Proclamation. Bill Ingersoll has a deep interest in the town’s trees and commented that we have fulfilled all four mandates, including the $2 per capita, although it is barely enough,and “Trees require a lot of maintenance.”

Here in Tree City, USA Chestertown, the second-oldest Tree City in Maryland, the required Tree Committee members fulfill three-year terms. They are charged with the “submission of a written plan for the care, preservation, pruning, planting, replanting, removal, or disposition of trees and shrubs in parks, along streets, and in other public areas.” This plan is presented to the Mayor and Town Council. Committee member Cynthia Saunders said that fourteen trees from Tree-Mendous Maryland, a Maryland Forest Service program that helps citizens increase tree cover, “are available to be planted.” She also spoke of the generosity of local nurseries in donating trees.

Chestertown joined the Tree City, USA program in 1981. It is proud of its title of Tree City, USA and strives to continue to sustain and supplement the greening of its streets and parks.

“When we plant a tree, we are doing what we can to
make our planet a more wholesome and happier dwelling place
for those that come after us, if not for ourselves.”

Wise words for all generations from Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894), American physician, author, professor and father of a U.S. Supreme Court justice from From Arbor Day–Its History and Observance, c. 1890.

The Kent County History Quiz is a weekly local brainteaser sponsored by The Peoples Bank. Kent County historian and author Joan Horsey, local newsman and history sleuth Kevin Hemstock, and columnist Kate Meehan contribute to the quiz’s development. Our goal is to create an opportunity for local learning and discussion.

Do you have a Kent County history question? Send it to steve@kentpilot.org.