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  • Plant a Tree and Make a Park Better

    It’s no secret that the ecosystem relies on trees for many of the natural processes that take place in the environment. But it’s easy to lose sight of the value of trees, and take them for granted. Trees and plants are an invaluable part of our ecosystem, and that's why Arbor Day was created.

    The Benefits of Trees:

    •         • Preserve air quality by absorbing carbon dioxide and emitting oxygen
    •         • Help keep streams and groundwater clean
    •         • Prevent runoff and soil erosion
    •         • Raise property values
    •         • Save energy and keep temperatures lower by providing shade
    •         • Stimulate economic development by attracting business and tourism


    What is Arbor Day All about?

    A pioneer named J. Sterling Morton is credited with the creation of Arbor Day. He was a journalist who advocated for tree-planting in Nebraska. In the 1800’s, trees were an essential necessity of life, from fuel to building materials. The holiday began taking place nationwide in 1882, and is normally celebrated on the last Friday in April.

    However, many states also have their own date to carry out Arbor Day traditions according to their prime tree-planting season. Here in Texas, for example, we celebrate our Arbor Day on the first Friday in November. To find out your state-specific Arbor Day, click here..

    How to Choose Your Tree:

    The Arbor Day Foundation is selling bulk tree seedlings that are 6 to 12 inches in length in celebration. The seedlings must be ordered 50 at a time, which makes this offer perfect for a group or community-wide planting event. Each order of 50 seedlings costs $39.00. However, some tree species are restricted in certain states.

    To find out which varieties will thrive in your area, start by determining your hardiness zone here. The 11 Plant Hardiness Zones are based on the average annual minimum temperature in different areas of North America.

    Once you’ve found your hardiness zone, choose any seedlings that are listed in the Zone you live in! Customizable Gift Trees are also available for purchase at the Arbor Day Foundation website. These make a meaningful, memorable gift for special occasions. Visit the Tree Nursery to see what else the foundation has to offer! Or, put some greenery of your own into your site with a purchase of our commercial planters. We have a number of materials and styles with custom options to match your space.

    How to Get Involved:

    Planting isn’t the only way to get involved and celebrate our world’s wonderful trees. The Arbor Day Foundation provides tons of resources to help communities plan fun events that everyone can participate in. Here are some of our favorites:


    We encourage you to explore the Arbor Day Foundation website for yourself to read more about the importance of trees and the programs available to help preserve and protect them. In the words of Mr. J. Sterling Morton, “Each generation takes the Earth as trustees.”

  • Oh, The Places Your Park Bench Can Go

    Making sure the humble park bench is in the right place at the right time requires thought and planning. Over time, a simple bench can become a treasured destination in its own right. To help you out, we’ve compiled a placement guide that lists some tips and best practices.

    • Parks: Deceivingly obvious, seating amenities in parks can fall flat if they’re placed carelessly in lackluster spots. The most successful parks place their benches strategically to offer value to park-goers. Perhaps the bench is at the top of a hiking trail overlooking a rewarding scenic view or at the edge of a beloved duck pond. Park benches located along running paths are certainly much appreciated by weary exercisers. They’re also a great place for downtowners to socialize in the city center or at the bus stop. In all of these scenarios, there’s an added benefit to sitting on the bench on top of getting off your feet.
    • Workplace: Humans require a certain level of connectivity with nature to function at our highest levels. Studies have proven time and again that the great outdoors not only helps wellbeing, but productivity levels, as well. Providing comfortable outdoor areas in the workplace could be a crucial factor in getting the best performance out of employees. Simply looking at  greenery for less than one minute can almost magically re-focus strained attention levels in workers, according to a study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology.
    • Supervision: Keeping an eye on small children at the playground or park is a top priority for parents and caregivers, so it’s no surprise this one made the list. Placing comfortable benches within a close proximity to playground equipment, sports fields, and other recreational sites is important to supervisors. Make sure the line of sight from the bench is unobstructive and gives a clear vantage point to multiple parts of the playground. Placing multiple benches around a playground is ideal, to give a view of all angles for conscientious parents.
    • Buddy Bench: By incorporating the “buddy bench” at your school or community playground, this simple park amenity can becomes so much more. It can foster friendships for children who have trouble interacting with their peers and creates a safe place for children to come together. The idea behind the Buddy Bench is to make sure everyone feels included.
    • Public Places: Seating in places that normally require some amount of waiting, like post offices, bus stops, and doctor’s offices, is a must. It’s a small convenience that for the most part goes unnoticed. That is, until the situation arises when you’d really love to sit down and there’s not a bench in sight. One angle for benches in public places like town centers or shopping outlets is to add a stylish aesthetic. Geometric, curved, and other unique shapes are a great option to add attitude.
    • Smoking areas: Providing a comfortable seating area for smokers that is located an appropriate distance from busy areas is crucial to ensure your organization is accommodating all guests, assuming the facility is not a non-smoking zone. We recommend locating commercial ash urns and park benches near one another in a partially secluded area. That way, the people utilizing this area will have the appropriate receptacles to avoid littering and affecting others with secondhand smoke.

    One of the most important things to remember in all of these situations is accessibility. You can achieve this by keeping park benches in an unobstructed area with a clear and easy path to get there. Depending on the terrain, providing a concrete pad next to benches is sometimes necessary, as well, to allow wheelchair users to sit next to friends and loved ones. There you have it. With this guide, you’ll never make a park bench placement blunder. Whether you’re overseeing the layout of an entire park or just finding the perfect place for a bench outside your office, creating a convenient, comfortable environment for guests and visitors is crucial to your organization’s image.

  • From Compliant to Inclusive

    Moving into 2016, universally accessible public spaces have become a growing priority, especially for families who deal with a disability firsthand. According to the most recent U.S. census findings, 19% of the country’s population lives with a disability. The goal is to go beyond just providing a few pieces of equipment at playgrounds and public lands that comply with Americans with Disabilities Act standards. Families dealing first-hand with a disability want integrated accommodations that truly include everyone. That’s no easy feat. That means widening sidewalks, walkways, and playground equipment to accommodate wheelchairs and other mobility devices. It means specially-designed swing seats, transfer stations, and non-traditional equipment that brings all types of people together.The Magical Bridge Playground in Palo Alto, California, is one case in which the community has come together to build this type of public space.

    “Addressing the unique play needs of the many kinds of children in our community, our hope is to create awareness that today’s park designs are overlooking so many: the growing autistic population, visually and hearing impaired, physically limited and even our aging community.” - Magical Bridge Playground

    Opened in April 2015, the playground is home to equipment and activities that are suited for all disabled people, as well as able-bodied ones, from children to adults. Retreat areas and a larger-than-life 24-string laser harp were designed to help soothe autistic visitors that may have social anxieties. An expanded hillside slide allows for the less mobile to participate easily and safely. There’s even a two-story treehouse that is completely wheelchair accessible. Every feature, from the landscape to the layout, fosters complete inclusivity.

    A similar need was felt in Michigan, at the Ocqueoc (Ah-key-ock) Falls Bicentennial Pathway, as the wilderness was too challenging for people with disabilities to traverse in order to access the river. Through some innovative thinking from the Michigan Parks and Recreation Division, it became the first accessible waterfall in the United States! The pathway is now outfitted with a wheelchair-accessible ramp that leads to the river made of recycled plastic. A tiered stone walls acts as a transfer station that allows people with limited mobility access to the water. New accessible picnic areas feature accessible picnic tables and concrete pads for wheelchairs to sit alongside park benches. Even the parking lot is designed to be as accessible as possible.

    While your organization may not be in a position completely overhaul your facility, there are easy adjustments you can make to be more inclusive.

    • Space: make sure hallways and pathways are wide enough and clear of barriers for wheelchairs and other mobility devices to move through easily
    • Buddy Bench: install a “Buddy Bench” at the playground to create a safe space for children with disabilities or social anxieties to interact with their fellow students
    • Accessible Amenities: provide wheelchair-accessible picnic tables can bring inclusiveness to any setting
    • Surfacing: Correct flooring or outdoor surfacing to accommodate wheelchairs can help them better interact with their surroundings
    • Ground-Level Activities: musical and sensory play are activities that
    • Nature: Feeling connected to nature can have a calming effect for people with certain disabilities

    Because of the families and municipalities that have gone the distance to set an example of what truly accessible places should look like, inclusive public spaces are being thought of as the rule, not the exception.

    To read more about Magical Bridge Playground: Magical Bridge Playground

    To read more about Ocqueoc Falls: Accessible Trail Opens Michigan’s Ocqueoc Falls to All

    To browse the products mentioned in this blog post: Buddy Bench, Accessible Picnic Tables

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