NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Arriving fresh from a meeting across town, still formally dressed in suit and tie, Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway addressed the attendees and participated in a tree planting on George H. Cook campus to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Arbor Day.
Holloway expressed the importance of the activity not only to the community, but to him personally. “This one activity is a hopeful activity that you can play a role in making things better,” he said. Holloway then recounted his personal connection to Arbor Day, going all the way back to 1976—during the nation’s bicentennial anniversary. The memory still vivid, Holloway described how as a nine-year-old, he was given at school three pine tree sprigs for planting at home. He recalled wondering how the delicate sprigs wrapped in damp, rough brown school-issue paper towels would ever transform into trees. Decades later, although Holloway’s parents have since passed, upon visits to his childhood home he can still see “his” trees towering into the sky.
Hosted by the Rutgers University Forestry Club, the event, held outside Waller Hall, encompassed a symbolic planting and forestry education event. The planting of a Scarlet oak—donated by Plant Detectives and the New Jersey Tree Foundation—was preceded by Holloway and club officials, outgoing president of the forestry club, Ryan Schmidt (SEBS ‘22); club secretary Felix Peters; incoming president, Julee Politano and club advisor, urban forestry professor Jason Grabosky. For logistical purposes, the tree had been planted in the ground prior to the event, with the honorary application of mulch left for the officials at the ceremony.
In addition to other educational activities around the campus, a pruning demonstration was done by Sean Lynch of the New Jersey Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture on a sugar maple in front of Waller Hall. Using special gear, Lynch climbed the tree in order to make proper cuts so the wounds would heal properly.
On top of the lasting impact the Scarlet oak will have on the campus – look for its red foliage in the fall – the Forestry Club will continue its green path at Rutgers and will be conducting an inventory of trees on the New Brunswick campus.
In addition to Grabosky reading the National Arbor Day Proclamation, the Forestry Club officers shared their remarks, below:
Ryan Schmidt, outgoing Forestry Club president:
“For those of you that don’t know, this year marks the 150th anniversary of Arbor Day in the United States. In 1872, a newspaper editor in Nebraska, J. Sterling Morton, proposed a day that would be dedicated to the planting of trees in the state.
To encourage the community to plant as many trees as they could, Morton offered incentives and prizes to towns and individuals who planted the most trees in that single day. It is estimated that about one million trees were planted on that first arbor day.
Over the past century and a half, the meaning of Arbor Day has changed with our opinions and feelings about the natural world. Today, we should take the time to admire the work of so many others before us living on through the trees on our campus and take pride knowing that we are all taking steps towards leaving this campus a little greener than it was only yesterday.
Arbor Day is a day for us to celebrate the trees we see and benefit from, but also a day to remember our legacy and responsibility in land tenure, conservation, and stewardship for the places where we live.
The forests present on the land that we are standing on right now was historically managed intensively by the Lenni-Lenape serving as sources of food and shelter and as important parts of their religion and culture.
Cook campus was founded as a land grant school aimed at educating about agriculture and the environment, a long and impressive tradition that we try to live up to every day.
Our trees are invaluable teaching tools for students around campus, they are at the cutting edge of science, and they provide us with shade and inspiration all the way from the days of Joyce Kilmer to today.
The forestry club itself has had a long tenure here on campus, taking a hiatus for several years and leaving the campus without a place for like-minded students to talk about trees.
In 2019, several undergraduate students, including some of our experts here today, took it upon themselves to re-establish this club and provide students with a place where they can share ideas and their passion for trees.
In 2019, we hosted the last State Arbor Day Celebration on Cook Campus, planting several hickory trees that will someday provide shade for students and act as a teaching collection to educate about forest diversity. After today’s ceremony concludes, we will be heading over to Martin Hall and Skelly Field to mulch and care for these young trees.
This leadership team kept the club going strong even in the face of virtual learning, and they still managed to celebrate Arbor Day through some digital tree identification challenges. (For those of you not involved in forestry, I can assure you it was actually a lot of fun!)
Now that we are back on campus, I am so excited that we are celebrating Arbor Day with the planting of this tree, a Scarlet oak, which has now become part of our campus’s vast living labs, adding to our history as dedicated stewards of the environment, and commemorating the enthusiasm that this campus continues to have for its trees.
We are honored to have the President of Rutgers University, Dr. Jonathan Holloway, in attendance for today’s Arbor Day event.”
Felix Peters, Forestry Club secretary:
“The Forestry Club has been fortunate enough to have been involved with different aspects of the New Jersey forestry community this past year. We attended both the ISA and NJ Tree Foundation workdays in Palisades Park and Liberty State Park, helping to plant and prune trees. We also were fortunate enough to help plant trees in Hutchinson Memorial Forest to further research on gap dynamics in old growth forests.
We have also been able to get involved on a local level around the Rutgers-New Brunswick campuses. Last summer, members of the Rutgers Forestry Club catalogued the tree inventory on three of the four Rutgers campuses. College Ave., Livingston, and Busch campuses have all been surveyed and their tree communities catalogued and added to a greater database. This inventory will serve as not only a powerful management tool for the university, but also as a powerful educational tool for students and faculty.
There is still work needed but this just presents future Forestry Club members and Rutgers students an opportunity to get involved and contribute to the living library that is Rutgers trees.”
Julee Politano, Forestry Club incoming president:
“The Rutgers University Forestry Club has a couple of main goals that we would like to enact here on the Rutgers Campus:
- We want to improve the health, diversity, and sustainability of the trees and foresters on the Rutgers-New Brunswick campus. As the forestry club, we will do our part in accomplishing this through education at our meetings and events like these, and by implementing and maintaining tree-based installations of our “living libraries” throughout the campuses.
- We aim to beautify the campuses and provide inviting, shaded areas for outdoor studying and recreation by planting native trees.
- We will continue to plant trees on campus as powerful tools to help mitigate stormwater runoff, reduce heating and electricity costs, and sequester carbon, helping us—as the broader Rutgers community—work towards our goal of carbon Neutrality by 2040.
- We have also started the process of establishing Rutgers University as a Tree Campus USA college. The Tree Campus USA designation is provided by the Arbor Day Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to education, sustainable forestry, and planting trees throughout the US and beyond. With this designation, we would be the first university in New Jersey to receive recognition as a Tree Campus USA.
These efforts are not instantaneous though, and implementing these changes takes the combined effort of many individuals and organizations. We aim to band together with other environmentally focused clubs to build a broader community on campus and will work to strengthen our relationship with our sponsors, the New Jersey Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture who are joining us here today, and the Society of American Foresters.
With our combined resources, we will educate the students at Rutgers University on the importance of trees, their impact on the environment, and how together we can work towards making a greener and more sustainable campus.
These ambitious goals cannot be met just by the forestry club alone and we would like to personally thank all of our sponsors for their help and support today and throughout the year.
Thank you to:
Rutgers Facilities for preparing the planting site for this tree
Plant Detectives and NJ Tree Foundation for generously donating, delivering, and planting this tree
NJ Arborists Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture for their pruning demonstration and general ongoing support for our student chapter
Rutgers Green Team for lending us their wheelbarrow and tools
Mike O’Keefe for providing mulch
Paula Walcott-Quintin, from the Office of Communications and Marketing at SEBS and NJAES for providing publicity and communications
Janice Geiger for allowing the Forestry Club to use the room in Waller Hall for our meetings
Pam Zipse and Jason Grabosky for their fearless leadership and for helping us all find the forester within us. Without you two, I personally wouldn’t know my oaks from my maples
And lastly, a special thank you to the President of Rutgers University, Dr. Jonathan Holloway, who we are honored to have in attendance for today’s Arbor Day event.
And thank you everyone for joining us in celebrating Arbor Day 2022!”