Get involved and make a difference for Earth Day and Arbor Day

Toward the end of March, I heard my first redwing blackbirds of the spring calling from the cattails. By early April, frogs were trilling in the wetlands. The strawberry leaves have begun to green-up in the garden and tulip and daffodils are emerging throughout my neighborhood. Though winter struggles mightily to hang on, spring steadfastly marches on, bit by bit, day by day. This week, community events planned in honor of Arbor Day and Earth Day will give people the opportunity to get outside, celebrate the spring, and make the world a little bit better.

Arbor Day is an annual celebration of trees first observed in Nebraska in 1872. Today, Arbor Day is celebrated across the United States on the last Friday in April. “The simple act of planting a tree represents a belief that the tree will grow and, some day, provide wood products, wildlife habitat, erosion control, shelter from the wind and sun, beauty, and inspiration for ourselves and our children,” says the National Arbor Day Foundation.

The first Earth Day, held in 1970, brought 20 million Americans out into streets, parks, and auditoriums across the country to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment. Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, is credited for initiating the event after witnessing the impacts of a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California in 1969. Nelson reached across political divides to convince national and state leaders that protecting the environment was in the nation’s best interest. Today, the Earth Day Network coordinates Earth Day events around the world, and thousands of community groups organize their own activities as well.

Locally, Great River Greening and the South Washington Watershed District will bring together more than 200 volunteers on Friday, April 24, to plant 3,000 oak trees in the South Washington Conservation Corridor between Woodbury and Cottage Grove, in part as a celebration of Arbor Day. The South Washington Conservation Corridor connects open space between Colby Lake in Woodbury, Cottage Grove Ravine Regional Park, and the Mississippi River. Within the corridor, the Watershed District has built a regional stormwater infiltration basin to help recharge groundwater and prevent flooding in Woodbury and Cottage Grove, and has also worked with both cities to manage stormwater runoff from new development. The 80-acre parcel in which the planting event will take place will provide critical native habitat for south-central Washington County and will be the site of future recreational trails.

The next day, on Saturday, April 25, Mahtomedi will be holding its 9th annual RITE of Spring Earth Day event, 9am-noon at the Mahtomedi District Education Center (1520 Mahtomedi Avenue). Mahtomedi’s RITE of Spring is a free family-friendly event sponsored by Mahtomedi Community Education, Mahtomedi Garden Club, City of Mahtomedi, MAGI (Mahtomedi Area Green Initiative), community volunteers and local churches. Events and activities will include a Bike Safety Check and Rodeo for the kids, a room full of hands-on water activities, composting workshops, electronics recycling, and a drop-off for unused medications. As a bonus, people who attend can register to win a free water efficient toilet. For questions, call 651-426-3344.

In addition to these and other local community events, the Washington Conservation District and Recycling Association of Minnesota will be distributing pre-ordered trees, rain barrels and compost bins at the Washington County Fairgrounds on Friday April 24, 8am-8pm and Saturday, April 25, 8am-noon. Extra stock will be sold on a first come, first served basis at the event.