Peru State College is located within 20 miles of Arbor Lodge, home of J. Sterling Morton (the founder of Arbor Day). Over 150 years ago, Morton founded a national tree-planting movement based on the belief that there is a connection between planting trees, attaining personal prosperity and building a new country. The impact of tree planting in early Nebraska is in breathtaking evidence on the College campus. Tree canopies made from ancient specimens of Gingko, Colorado blue spruce, Maple, Cypress, Hickory and Elm create a remarkable display.
The College first became involved with the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum in May of 1979. The mission of the Campus of a Thousand Oaks Arboretum is to serve as a botanical resource for students, visitors, and residents of southeast Nebraska and to develop a dynamic arboretum embedded in and landscape plan compatible with the aesthetic, historical, and floristic heritage of the site. The Arboretum collection is an educational and instructional resource in botany and horticulture.
Peru State College’s commitment to maintaining the established landscape is matched by its commitment to build new collections. The collection currently consists of over 150 species of trees, shrubs, cultivars and grasses native to Nebraska. Peru State’s recent construction of approximately one-quarter mile of bio-retention basins has added over 475 shrubs, 100 trees, and over 3,500 drought-tolerant perennials and grasses to the Arboretum. The establishment of a quercetum near the Centennial Complex contains 45 varieties of oak and oak hybrids. The Campus of a Thousand Oaks Wellness Trail has been revitalized and wends its way through the woods between campus and Neal Park (which is part of the campus). Soon, there will be a trail connecting the campus and park. These examples demonstrate that the campus holds the value of stewardship high in both its historical context and its current practices.