Let’s face it—ever since painter and television host Bob Ross passed away in 1995, America hasn’t been the same place it once was.
Now we’re not 100 percent certain that the social fabric of the United States began to fray when the public television star disappeared from the airwaves, but the case could be made that as Ross disappeared from our lives, things got much more complicated.
But now, the state of Michigan is hoping to bring a bit of soothing comfort happiness into people’s lives with a “Happy Little Trees” program meant to celebrate Bob Ross’ 100th birthday and help inmates plant 1,000 trees throughout public parks every year.
The program is the result of a partnership between the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Bob Ross Inc., and also coincides with the centennial of Michigan’s own state parks.
The program is a revamped version of the Department of Corrections’ “prison grow” career and education program which grants inmates the opportunity to gain job skills, in this case by learning horticultural practices and helping to grow trees for reforestation efforts.
The program should be of particular benefit for state parks, where trees felled by invasive species will be replaced by native varieties such as sugar maple, paper birch, and white cedar trees, among others.
Because Bob Ross is known by all, including those born after his death, for his love of painting happy images of greenery, the name “Happy Little Trees” became irresistible.
Michelle Coss, a volunteer and donor coordinator for the DNR’s Parks and Recreation division, told MLive:
“We were talking about the prison grow program, and somehow ‘happy little trees’ came up.
I said, ‘Well, wouldn’t it be cool if we reached out to Bob Ross Inc. and asked if we could use that moniker for the program?’ So we did, and they loved it.”
Inmates from across Michigan’s jails help to grow the 1,000 new trees from native seeds collected by volunteers. Once they mature into saplings, these are then used to replace damaged or destroyed foliage at state parks.
The addition of Bob Ross’ likeness and branding to the program has proven successful. When announced in April, over 500 people quickly volunteered to plant trees. The offer of a free “Happy Little Trees” t-shirt no doubt sweetened the deal.
And to the delight of Michigan residents, “Happy Little Trees Ahead” signs have also been installed across state parks including Port Crescent State Park, Orchard Beach State Park and Yankee Springs Recreation Area. Additional signs portraying the curly-haired artist are also slated to be installed at other parks across the state.