Happy Little Trees planting program

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Volunteer park stewardship activities – seed gathering from native plants, cutting and removing invasive plants, cleaning up overgrown natural areas, and many other efforts – have long been key to managing the forested areas within Michigan state parks.

This year, the state parks system’s centennial anniversary year, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Bob Ross Inc. are announcing an exciting new partnership and component to that stewardship program.

People around the world are familiar with the work and personality of Bob Ross, the American painter, art instructor and television host who in the ’80s and ’90s shared his love for painting and the environment with millions of viewers on the public television show, “The Joy of Painting.”

Ross was known for demonstrating seemingly simple brushstrokes that brought gorgeous landscapes – full of happy little trees – to life on the canvas.

Inspired by the state parks centennial, the DNR and Bob Ross Inc. are partnering on Happy Little Trees by renaming the state’s “prison grow” program in which prisoners who’ve been successful in the Department of Corrections career and technical education program get the opportunity to learn horticulture practices and help raise trees for use in reforestation efforts, including plantings at state parks.

The program takes local native seeds, collected by volunteers, and those seeds are used to raise similar genotype trees grown specifically for replanting at state parks in the same region – that’s important because replacement trees with similar genetics are much more likely to survive and thrive.

“The Bob Ross Company is thrilled to partner with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to ensure every happy tree in Michigan state parks has a friend through the Happy Little Trees program,” said Sarah Strohl, an executive assistant at Bob Ross Inc. “Like Bob often said, ‘There’s nothing wrong with making friends with nature.’”

Though it’s too soon to finalize planting dates, the DNR has selected planting locations. The first planting will take place at Warren Dunes State Park (Berrien County) after May 19. Parks in the Lower Peninsula will receive trees in May; parks in the Upper Peninsula will get trees in June.

In all, more than 1,000 trees are set to be distributed and planted.

The parks in the Upper Peninsula include:

Escanaba Ecoregion: Fayette, Indian Lake, Palms Brook and Wells

Luce/Dickinson Ecoregion: Laughing Whitefish, Muskallonge Lake, Tahquamenon Falls and Wagner Falls

Help will be needed at all locations, and all volunteers will receive a Happy Little Trees T-shirt (sample design attached).

People interested in volunteering and other information about supporting the program are encouraged to sign up by visiting the state parks centennial website, Michigan.gov/StateParks100; the Happy Little Trees information will be under the website’s “Give Forward” section by 5 p.m. Thursday, April 25.

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