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Tree City U.S.A

A non-profit business founded in 1976 dedicated to giving trees a life well cared for. Tree City, U.S.A!

IT WAS BY CAREFUL DESIGN that founders of the Tree City USA program made certain that criteria for this designation could be met by communities of all sizes. The first standard, or requirement, is a good example of how well this concept has worked since the inception of Tree City USA in 1976. Today, the nation’s 3,606 Tree City USA communities have a wide range of ways to ensure there is someone responsible for tree care.

The Classic Model

THIS IS THE TRADITIONAL TREE BOARD. Sometimes a different name is used, like tree commission, advisory committee, or others. There is no requirement about what name is used, who is on a tree board, or the number of members. It does work best if the name and other details are spelled out in a city ordinance, including the length of service of members and specifying staggered expiration dates. Sometimes the composition of the group is included in the ordinance, but it is always important that members have an interest in the welfare of community trees. Beyond that, a mix of business people, at least one tree expert, and other dedicated folks with ties to the community contributes to an active, viable tree board.

Dave Blaser(left), Rhonda Will, and Mayor Al Bender do double duty as
Sibley’s park board and tree board.

Falls City, Nebraska, is representative of the traditional tree board model. Its board has five members that serve two-year terms and have authority given to them in a city ordinance. There is an arborist on the board, business people, and a retiree, all with a caring attitude toward trees and a willingness to meet quarterly. Gary Jorn, who serves as the city clerk, treasurer, and administrator, is an ex officio member. Gary says the board’s accomplishments include revision of the tree ordinance, creation of a list of trees approved for planting in the city rights-of-way, approving the removal of trees, and planning and conducting Arbor Day celebrations. He also said the group has been drafting recommendations for the city council on how to address the emerald ash borer epidemic.

About 75 percent of all Tree City USA communities fall under this model for meeting Standard 1.

Doing Double Duty

Some communities take advantage of an established park board to also serve as the tree board. The nation’s smallest Tree City USA, Sibley, North Dakota, is an example, albeit an extreme one. With only 22 residents, the three-member park board carries the responsibilities for tree care. Mayor Al Bender serves on the board along with Dave Blaser and chairperson Rhonda Will. They use personal equipment for necessary tree work. Meetings take place several times each year. Much of the board’s work focuses on the city park and around the fire hall where aging willows have been replaced with plantings funded by the North Dakota Forest Service.

The tri-cities of Richland, Kennewick, and Pasco, Washington, do double duty of a different nature. These cities have opted to use a single entity to promote the interests of urban forestry. This nonprofit organization is the Mid-Columbia Community Forestry Council, and it is dedicated to public education about the value of trees and many of the other functions normally provided by a local tree board.

Going In Alone

Another way for a community to meet Standard 1 is to have a department that is responsible for tree care. Wichita, Kansas, is such a city. In this case, certified city arborist Gary Farris and a staff of 40 are solely responsible for the city’s 400,000 trees in rights-of-way, 143 parks, and greenways along two rivers. Gary also plans the annual Arbor Day celebration with a little help from friends such as the nonprofit organization Project Beauty, a local utility, businesses, and several school groups. “This works for us,” says Gary. It also works for about 16 percent of the communities with Tree City USA recognition.

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Source: Arbor Day Foundation

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