Tree-Huggers Rejoice: Understanding the significance of Buffalo State’s Arbor Day celebration


The seven new additions to the campus planted by Sypniewski near the Savage Theater and Communication Building

I'Jaz Eberhardt, Staff writer

Friday, April 26 is Arbor Day, a national holiday that promotes the planting of trees and celebrating their contributions to our environment. On Tuesday, SUNY Buffalo State held its fourth annual celebration of Arbor Day, while acknowledging the importance and significance of trees on the college’s campus.

“The reason why we have it here is because we are an arboretum,” said Steven Sypniewski, grounds & arboretum manager. Buffalo State is home to the Maud Gordon Holmes Arboretum, a botanical garden devoted to growing trees and shrubs. The arboretum was established in 1962 in honor of its namesake, Garden Center Institute of Buffalo Founder Maud Gordon Holmes.

Sypniewski referred to the campus exterior as “an outdoor classroom” because the trees of Buffalo State are grown for study purposes. “This is why we have this,” he said of the Arbor Day observance, “to celebrate the trees and recognition for what we have on this campus.”

The campus currently has an estimated 1,500 trees, although around 200 have been lost in recent years to weather-related events, construction, insect infestations and diseases. In response to these issues, Friends of the Maud Gordon Holmes Arboretum, a grassroots organization comprised of Buffalo State faculty, staff and students, was formed to restore the campus’ environmental charm. Sypniewski acknowledged the group’s donations of time and money to purchase more trees for the college.

Restoration efforts are currently underway. Sypniewski recently planted seven young trees just north of the Savage Theater and Communication Building. Tuesday’s event featured saplings which will be planted after commencement on June 1.

Founded in 1872 by Julius Sterling Morton, secretary of agriculture to President Grover Cleveland, Arbor Day is celebrated annually in the United States on the last Friday of April, although some parts of the country must make concessions due to varying factors. “Other states can have it at different times of the year depending on what their climate is and when it’s more appropriate to plant trees, so it’s a pretty cool thing,” said Sypniewski.

Although Arbor Day is a day for people to appreciate and recognize environmentalism, individuals should continue to be eco-conscious after the celebration ends. One way is to respect and beautify the environment by assuming personal responsibility for maintaining one’s immediate surroundings. “Even if it’s not from you, if you’re walking along and you see a Pepsi cup or something on the ground, just pick it up and throw it in the garbage can,” said Sypniewski. “I don’t expect people to pick all the litter, but just be conscious…Those are little things that would be huge helps for the campus.”

Students interested in learning more about the arboretum and conservation efforts to restore and protect it are encouraged to attend meetings held by Friends of the Maud Gordon Holmes Arboretum, which are occasionally held during Bengal Pause and later at 4 p.m.I’