April 22 offers multiple opportunities to recognize the beauty of the Key Peninsula in tangible ways that illustrate civic pride and good stewardship.

It was on April 22, 1970 that founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, createdEarth Day, the first nationwide environmental protest to force this issue onto the national agenda. At the time, leaded gas was the norm. Industry belched out smoke and sludge with little fear of legal consequences or bad press. Air pollution was accepted as the price of prosperity. Earth Day 1970 saw 20 million Americans parading in the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values. Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species acts.

The idea for Arbor Day originally came from J. Sterling Morton, born April 22, 1832, who was a journalist and editor of Nebraska’s first newspaper. He and his wife loved nature, and he used his position to share his enthusiasm for trees to an equally enthusiastic audience. During the 1870s, other states passed legislation to observe Arbor Day, and the tradition began in schools nationwide in 1882. Arbor Day has now spread beyond the United States and is observed in many countries of the world.

Arbor Day festivities on the Key Peninsula and surrounding area include the planting of 1,000 western hemlock seedlings by students from all the schools in the Peninsula School District. These “official” state trees are provided by the Gig Harbor/Key Peninsula Arbor Day Foundation. This group, consisting of four dedicated environmentalists, also sponsors district-wide student essay, photo, poster, and poetry contests, with prizes and awards to be presented at the April 22 Arbor Day celebration at the Gig Harbor Civic Center (City Hall), on Grandview St., from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. A raffle, with proceeds to benefit the foundation, will run throughout the day.

Nancy Lind, a Key Peninsula resident, was the recipient of the Foundation’s annual Good Stewardship award in 2005. She is tireless in her work to save wildlands and open spaces on the Key Peninsula and was key in saving Rocky Creek Conservation area. Call Carol Alex at 858-8797 or go to www.gigharbor.com for more information.

Scott Gallacher, KP Metro Parks, invites all citizens to celebrate National Parks Week on Arbor/Earth Day, April 22, from 9 a.m. to noon at either of two locations. A group will meet at the Rocky Creek Conservation area for trail clean-up, brush-cutting, and removal; and at the Purdy Spit for general clean-up. Gallacher says if enough community resources are available, the Home Park may also be included. “This is a great opportunity for people to come out and participate,” he said. National Parks Week clean-up is a major county-wide effort with nearly 2,000 other people working in their local parks at the same time.

For individuals or families, there’s no need to pre-register — just show up and start working. Bring your work gloves and small tools if you have them — just be sure to label them. For more information, call Gallacher at 884-9240 or visit www.parksappreciationday.net.

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