This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, April 15, 1992

April 15, 1992 - Arbor Day

All around the town where I was raised were vast congregations of oak, elm, willow trees, maple, and on and on, raising their arms in exaltation and splendor.

In my youth, I attended them all. I swang from them, leaned on them, lolled in their shade. I draped myself on their raceways and slept. And sheltered in their embrace, held high above the world, I read and read.

Alas, we cannot long abide in the pleasant orchards of our childhood. And like a lot of people who moved to Colorado from the east, I found that Colorado's more open, arid spaces -- took some getting used to.

Don't get me wrong. I have come to love the Coloradan landscape as passionately as the Lake Michigan woodlands I grew up in. But trees are still special. Trees are what people would be, I think, if they couldn't walk or talk, but wanted to tell you how happy they were anyhow.

So for me, Arbor Day evokes feelings of nostalgia, near-familial attachments, and an almost religious tenderness.

But first, let's look at the facts. The first Arbor Day took place on April 10, 1872. It was the idea of a Nebraskan newspaper publisher, Julius Sterling Morton.

Maybe, as he claimed, he thought trees would enrich the soil and conserve moisture. Maybe he just wanted to make sure that there would always be a source for more newspapers.

In either case, you might say that the idea took root.

The Nebraska state government offered prizes to encourage participation in the project, and when all the dirt had settled, the people of Nebraska had planted over a million trees. In one day.

After Morton died, the Nebraska legislature changed the date of Arbor Day to the publisher's birthday, April 22, and made it a legal holiday. Today, it has spread not only to most states but to most of the provinces of Canada.

As a county-wide event, Arbor Day came to Douglas County just last year, when our citizens donated $12,400 toward the purchase of trees. Three hundred twenty-five volunteers planted 500 trees along greenways and in area parks.

This year, the Douglas County Arbor Day Committee -- composed of an impressive coalition of local organizations -- is branching out a little.

In 1992, over 400 volunteers will be needed to find homes for the over 600 trees the Committee hopes to purchase. The date of the planting? -- Saturday, April 18.

It will take over $18,000 worth of donations to assemble this heavenly choir. But then, oh then, we shall hear a veritable litany of leaves: from the slender, flute-like needles of pi€on, ponderosa, blue spruce, foxtail and Austrian pine, to the more robust foliage of cherry, plum, hackberry, maple, locust, green and purple ash, to the brassy crabapple, the elegant birch, the cool cottonwood, and the clever catalpa.

You have to admit. Not only do trees look beautiful, tie down the soil, scrub the air, lend shade, provide sanctuary for summer readers, etc. -- even their names sound nice.

If you want to help out with this project, it's not too late. Just call Ron Benson, chairman of the Douglas County Arbor Day 1992 Committee, at 660-7490.

The Committee can still use more money. (The more money, the more trees.)

Or, if you want to have an even more direct connection to nature, tell Ron that you'd like to sign up at one of the three main planting areas. Volunteers are needed in the Cherry Creek Trail in the Regional and Bar Triple C Parks in Parker, the Castle Rock Greenway/Sellar's Gulch in Castle Rock, and Falcon Park in Highlands Ranch.

Remember: the world can be peaceful and green. It's all just a matter of be-leaf.

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