Project to reforest parts of Nebraska's Fort Robinson State Park following 48,000-acre wildfire in 1989 has planted 450,000 trees since 1990, supported by US$175,000 in Nebraska Environmental Trust grants; organizers say 76,000 trees have survived

HARRISON, Nebraska , May 28, 2014 () – The final tree has been planted in a 25-year effort to reforest portions of western Nebraska's Fort Robinson State Park that were devastated by a massive wildfire in 1989.

About 1,400 members of the Boy Scouts of the Longs Peak Council and other volunteers planted 10,500 trees at Fort Robinson State Park on Saturday, the Sidney Sun-Telegraph reported (http://bit.ly/SPoP2s ). The planting marked the 25th and final year for the event.

Since the first planting of 300 to 400 pine trees in 1990, more than 450,000 trees have been planted at Fort Robinson. Organizers believe at least 76,000 have lived, helping restore the 48,000 acres burned by the fire.

The annual planting event became more successful than its founding organizers had imagined, as it was originally scheduled to last just five to 10 years. But the popularity of the event and $175,000 in grants from the Nebraska Environmental Trust helped keep the program going.

Jim Schmitt of Dalton, a scout leader who helped organize the effort, said the program has forged relationships and connected kids to nature.

"We never really knew why this thing took off like it did," Schmitt said. "We know the Fort is part of the secret. Fort Robinson is a draw."

Royden James of Torrington, along with his son, Jonathan, and grandson, Tyler, were given the honor of planting the project's ceremonial final tree. Royden and Jonathan James began participating in the tree-planting events when Jonathan was a boy, and continued until Tyler became a Cub Scout, then a Boy Scout.

The final tree was placed along Smiley Canyon near the pines planted during the first year.

"It's great to be in that area and look at those trees again and think that we had a hand in helping get those trees, that are now 10 to 15 feet tall, in the ground," Jonathan James said. "It's great to see them established and replenishing the forest."

While the reforestation effort may have ended, Schmitt said the Boy Scouts will gather annually at Fort Robinson to participate in other service projects around the park.

Information from: Sidney Sun-Telegraph, http://www.suntelegraph.com

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