To the Point for 4/27/2006


TOMORROW (FRIDAY) is Arbor Day across the state of Indiana. Arbor Day is a national holiday, but is celebrated at different times by different states.

Here in Indiana, Arbor Day is celebrated on the last Friday of April each year.

Arbor Day is one of those holidays that many people often overlook. It’s not filled with presents and sales like other observances; there is no day off of work and school; and there is no Arbor Day tree to put presents under — although there really should be.

For the record, the first Arbor Day observance occurred in Nebraska on April 10th, 1872. Its origins are credited to Julius Sterling Morton, who was both a journalist and a politician. Throughout his political career, and through the pages of newspapers he worked for, Julius Morton sought to improve agricultural techniques.

Eventually, he would rise to the highest farming office in the country — serving as secretary of agriculture under President Grover Cleveland.

But it was trying to bring more beauty to Nebraska that led him to get the idea that planting trees on a statewide level would enhance not only Nebraska’s landscape, but also its economy. He figured that people could work anywhere — why not work in someplace that was pretty, too?

While serving on Nebraska’s board of agriculture, he decided that one special day each year should be set aside for tree planting and to create public awareness on the importance of trees.

Since the first Arbor Day was a big success in Nebraska, the stated decided to hold a second Arbor Day 12 years later; and a year later, in 1885, the state declared that April 22nd of each year would be known as Arbor Day — Julius Morton’s birthday.

The idea behind Arbor Day quickly spread to other states, and today every state celebrates Julius Morton’s dream.

In 1970, President Richard Nixon declared that nationally Arbor Day would be celebrated on the last Friday of April — a designation that Indiana and other states still abide by.

As Switzerland County joins in tomorrow’s Arbor Day celebration, although no official ceremony is planned, I believe that the spirit of Julius Morton lives on here.

Several years ago the town of Vevay created a Tree Board (pardon the pun), and for a few years that board was very active in promoting awareness of trees here. Plans were made to allow people to plant specific trees in areas around the community in honor of loved ones; and an Arbor Day observance was actually held when a tree was planted at the Vevay Cemetery.

An inventory of trees was created for the town, and there was even talk of the community applying for “Tree City USA” status.

Then things began to fade as failure to agree on a focus for the group and a direction for the town never materialized.

Now, a new group has emerged in the community. It too has a focus of beautifying the town, and — just like Julius Morton — it also believes that beautification can lead to economic stimulation.

“Vevay Main Street” is best known to this point as the group that placed flower pots around town last summer. The group is now making plans to increase the exposure of those pots by adding to their number this summer. The group is also coordinating the care of those flower pots by volunteers within the community; and will also cooperate with seniors from Switzerland County High School for a clean up and beautification project around the courthouse on Friday, May 5th.

I believe that when communities become involved in the beautification of common areas — Patriot has done a wonderful job of cleaning up some areas of the town, also — then it will naturally lead to both retail business and industry considering locating here.

Any town, any city, can offer a business or industry things like buildings and utilities and tax abatements — but what really attracts a corporation to a community are things that contribute to the quality of life for employees.

Executives are looking for good schools for their children — and we certainly have those. They want safe towns, and we have those. They was beautiful scenery, and with the Ohio River, I believe that we are positioned better than any community anywhere around us.

And the efforts of “Vevay Main Street” will contribute along with all of the other entities to help provide a bright future for Switzerland County and the people who live here.

It is also a testimony to people who have a vision — just like Julius Morton — and who then follow through on that vision for the betterment of all.