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Happy Little Trees program

Bob Ross Happy Little Trees sign

People around the world are familiar with the work and personality of Bob Ross, the American painter, art instructor and television host who in the ’80s and ’90s shared his love for painting and the environment with millions of viewers on the PBS show, “The Joy of Painting.” Ross was known for demonstrating seemingly simple brushstrokes that brought gorgeous landscapes – full of happy little trees – to life on the canvas.

T-shirt design with Bob Ross drawing

Happy Little Trees 5K - April 22-28, 2023

No matter how you reach the finish line - walk, run or roll - you pick the pace and the place, anywhere outdoors! Everyone who participates gets a Happy Little T-shirt, a commemorative bib number and finisher's medal. Proceeds support tree planting and forest protection efforts – such as invasive plant and forest pest management and early detection surveys – in Michigan state parks and recreation areas. The cost is $34 (credit card processing fees may apply).

The event has now been expanded to include Indiana, Ohio, South Carolina and Wisconsin. Just pick the state where you want proceeds to go when registering.

Register for the 2023 Happy Little 5K »

Bob Ross partnership and the tree planting program

The tree planting program - where seeds are placed in the care of inmates in a Michigan Department of Corrections education program - began in 2004, but grew into the "Happy Little Trees" program in 2019, when the DNR and Bob Ross Inc. partnered on programming to help raise awareness of tree planting and forest protection efforts in state parks.

The program has produced more than 100,000 native plants, shrubs and trees since its start in 2004. With support from the Bob Ross partnership, more than 2,100 trees have been planted in 20 state parks across Michigan.

Collection of local native seeds is key to growing trees, shrubs, grasses and plant products for use in state parks within the same geographical region to provide the best opportunity to survive and to emulate local plant communities.

Visitors to state parks where trees have been planted will see bright green "Happy Little Trees Ahead" signs to note the program's important contributions.


The partnership between the DNR and Bob Ross Inc. involves hundreds of volunteers planting trees, thousands of 5K race participants raising funds and awareness and lots of "happy little trees" throughout Michigan.

If you are interested in volunteering to plant trees, help care for newly planted trees, or are interested in other stewardship efforts at state parks, please contact Kelsey Dietz.


For more details on Happy Little Tree plantings, general tree planting or forest health in state parks, contact Heidi Frei (DNR natural resource steward and state park forest health).

For more details on the Happy Little Trees partnership, the Happy Little 5k, and sponsorship opportunities, contact Michelle O'Kelly (DNR parks and recreation fund developer).

Support Happy Little Trees!

Show your support for trees in state parks by donating to the tree planting and protection fund. This fund supports forest stewardship and protection in state parks, such as planting trees and fighting invasive species and diseases.

Make a donation