Photo by Michelle Coss / DNR

Bob Ross and his soothing televised painting classes have long been a source of comfort and zen for Americans of all ages—and now, his legacy is bringing even more beauty into the world by helping inmates plant “happy little trees” in Michigan parks.

In celebration of their 100th birthday, the state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reached out to Bob Ross Inc. and asked if they could collaborate for the centennial.

More specifically, the state’s Department of Corrections manages a “prison grow” career and education program in which inmates get the opportunity to learn horticulture practices and help raise trees for reforestation efforts—particularly at state parks.

Since Bob Ross was renowned for his love of painting cheerful greenery, the DNR partnered with the artist’s estate to rename their program “Happy Little Trees”.

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“We love anything that has to do with helping the environment and trees. Bob would’ve loved that,” DNR staffer Michelle Coss told Road Tripper.

Every year, inmates from three of Michigan’s correctional facilities help to grow about 1,000 new trees from native seeds that have been collected by volunteers. The saplings are then used to replace any state park foliage that has been damaged.

This year, Bob Ross Inc. joined in on the program by putting out a call for potential volunteers on their website, saying that all participants who helped to plant the inmates’ trees would be given a free “Happy Little Trees” tee-shirt.

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Coss was delighted to report that more than 500 volunteers signed up for the program. Although if you’re disappointed about missing your opportunity to get the free tee-shirt, she says that the shirt is also on sale on their website—and all of its sales are invested right back into the program.

The DNR says that they will be honoring the tree-planting initiative’s new name by installing “Happy Little Trees Ahead!” signs with Bob Ross’s smiling face at three of their parks: Orchard Beach, Port Crescent, and Yankee Springs.

The Lovington, Sleeper, and Warren Dunes parks are all scheduled to receive signs as well.

Photo by Michelle Coss / DNR

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