Community contributes to school forest’s growth
Margaret Brooks watched her great-granddaughter Jaydon, 6, gently steady and secure the tree in place, adding moss to the dirt and patting it down. Margaret, 83, is not one to stand idly by, though, and it wasn’t long before she, too, grabbed a shovel and started digging.
After all, they had nine saplings to plant in honor and in memory of family members.
“They had a lot of pride in the Boston School Forest and to see it continually growing,” said Margaret, who planted trees at the forest as a child. Her late husband Jim, for whom three of the trees Sunday were erected in memory, also participated as a child.
“The nice part of this for me getting older is I don’t know how much longer I can get out here, so it’s nice driving down and knowing this is the last planting,” she said.
The Brooks family had four generations out at Boston School Forest Sunday, April 23, to celebrate the school forest’s 80th anniversary and Earth Day through a variety of family-friendly activities that included planting trees. The trees – 925 of 13 different varieties – were purchased last fall after a thinning of the forest. Director Karla Lockman thought what better way to continue the forest’s educational programming and boost the environment than replace the trees as part of a community event.
Sunday, more than 500 people – including generations of families, Big Brothers/Big Sisters with their “Littles” and state and local dignitaries – poured into the property to participate and planted more than 500 trees. Add in volunteers, Boy and Girl Scouts and staff, and nearly 590 people turned out.
“This was truly a community event,” Lockman said. “So many families shared stories of multiple generations taking trips to BSF. It’s so rewarding to give families an opportunity to spend time outdoors exploring nature, planting trees, playing games and singing along with Tom Pease.”
Families who purchased and planted trees are contributing to the school forest’s management plan, which includes increasing the biodiversity of plant and animal species native to Wisconsin.
The forest in 1937 originally was a pine plantation consisting of red and white pines and some spruce. Plantings Sunday included hickory and black walnut trees as well as hemlock, white cedar and tamarack so future generations can learn about the differences between nut trees and coniferous forest habitats, Lockman said.
While there were individual tree purchases, some stocked up: one family bought 34 trees, another 25, and there were several other multiple buyings resulting from the marketing effort last fall that included sending flyers home with school students, like Jaydon, who had visited the forest.
“I just said ‘this is what I’m going to do,’ and I thought it would be something good for us,” said April Brooks, Jaydon’s mom and Margaret’s granddaughter. “I thought it was a neat idea. My grandma and grandpa told me how often they’d come out, and they planted.”
Jaydon, who grinned as she pushed dirt into the holes and climbed on the shovel in an attempt to get enough weight on it to uplift the soil for a new digging, already knew she was carrying on family tradition.
“It’s keeping the earth healthy,” she said. “There’s only one planet that we live one.”
She knew her great-grandfather for a couple of years before he died, she said, and she knew he would be proud of the family.
“I think he’d say, ‘this is really fun,’” she said.
The fun and memories – both old and new – were a big part of why people attended the celebration, they said, and having multiple family members marking four generations made it even more extraordinary.
“It was pretty special because our son (Benjamin) did an Eagle Scout project out there in ’97 or ’98, and we’ve got mom planting trees 80 years ago,” said David Hall, son of Ella Hall, a first-generation school forest tree planter.
David and his sister Debbie Hall came out to the event with their mother, Ella Hall, 93, who was among the classes who contributed to the forest that very first year. Also with them were Ella’s granddaughter Katie Lamon and her husband Nate, and Ella’s great-granddaughter Natalia, 8, and great-grandson Hunter, 4, (Katie and Nate’s children).
“We just grew up with Boston School down there,” David said. “It was important and it was fun … it’s just part of life around here.”
And those attending Sunday’s event, like the Brooks and Hall families, will ensure it will continue to be “just part of life” for generations to come.