Tree City USA

By Aaron Holsapple | October 2, 2007
From Missouri Conservationist: Oct 2007

In many Missouri towns, trees on public property outnumber trees on private land. These “public” trees beautify city streets, adorn and shade parks and add character and a sense of permanence to communities.

People love their trees so much that they often name streets after them. How many Elm Streets do we have in Missouri? How many towns have streets named Locust or Maple? How many Willow Lanes? We even have towns named after tree species. Poplar Bluff, Birch Tree and Pineville are just a few examples.

As you drive across Missouri, as well as across the nation, you’ll see many communities proudly displaying the Tree City USA logo. The sign proclaims that the community cares about the environment.

The Tree City USA program, sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service, The National Arbor Day Foundation and the National Association of State Foresters, recognizes communities working to improve the population, health and future growing space of their public trees. The program provides direction, technical assistance, public attention and national recognition for urban and community forestry programs.

Earning Tree City USA certification is a good deal for communities. Meeting the requirements of the program helps ensure the long-term planning and management necessary to preserve or improve urban forests.

Strong, healthy-growing street trees increase property values, improve the local and global environment by absorbing carbon dioxide and reduce energy consumption by reducing the need for cooling.

Public trees attract people to public places, where community spirit is fostered. They also draw people to shopping areas, which in turn draws businesses to locate in inviting and shaded downtown areas.

Tree City USA certification may also be useful when communities apply for state or national grants for forest-related work or activities. The designation signifies that trees are a high priority in the community, and it guarantees that a working infrastructure is in place to manage public trees.

Tree City USA certification also might mean another holiday. One of the four requirements for qualification is for a community to have an Arbor Day observance and proclamation. How communities comply might range from a simple ceremony honoring volunteer tree planters to a day-long festival that can be used as a springboard for helping residents learn more about trees and forest management.

A Success Story

Hermann recently attained the status of Tree City USA.

Located on the Missouri River in north Gasconade County, Hermann is well-known for its vineyards, festivals and beautiful scenery, especially in the fall when oaks, maples, hickories and other species growing in the rich riverside soils provide a kaleidoscope of vibrant colors.

Wanting to preserve the area’s natural beauty, city officials, working with members of the local garden club, engaged a certified arborist to assess the condition and health of trees on city property. A Tree Resource Improvement and Maintenance (TRIM) grant from the Conservation Department paid for most of the inventory costs.

The inventory determined that the majority of the city’s trees were in good growing condition, though many were old and in need of maintenance. About 10 percent of the trees were deemed hazardous or unsightly and in need of removal.

The inventory became a blueprint from which to plan annual tree maintenance. Participants in the planning agreed that the main goals of the city’s tree program should be minimizing the city’s liability and improving the public tree resources.

Hermann city employees perform most of the tree maintenance. Conservation Department resource foresters conducted several tree care workshops to help the employees learn tree pruning and planting skills.

Hermann City Administrator Steve Mueller said the city’s determination and efforts to improve public trees has increased awareness among the population of the value of trees and the necessity for proper management of trees, even on private land. He gave as an example how proper pruning techniques on city property are now challenging the long-established landowner tradition of “topping” trees.

The commitment and concern that led Hermann to seek Tree City USA certification has united residents and increased civic pride. The improvements to Hermann’s urban forests are already noticeable and will inevitably lead to healthy trees for generations to come.

Becoming a Tree City USA

There are four basic requirements to gaining Tree City USA status:

  1. A Tree Board or Department
  2. A Tree Care Ordinance
  3. A Community Forestry Program with an annual budget of at least $2 per capita
  4. An Arbor Day Observance and Proclamation

The requirements aren’t difficult and are within the reach of any community—large or small. The effort often attracts volunteers, spreading the workload while fostering community pride and spirit.

Learn more about the Tree City USA program online or call 402-474-5655 for a free booklet.

Conservation Department foresters are available to assist any community needing tree care instruction. For assistance in applying for Tree City USA certification, contact your local Conservation Department forester (see page 3 for regional office phone numbers), or go visit the links listed below and scroll down to “Tree City USA,” where you can download a Tree City USA workbook.

Tree City USA Communities in Missouri

Certification takes place at the end of the year. The following 70 communities had achieved certification at the end of 2006.

Ash Grove • Ballwin • Blue Springs • Branson • Brentwood • Brunswick

• Cape Girardeau • Carthage • Centralia • Chesterfield • Chillicothe •

Clayton • Columbia • Crestwood • Creve Coeur • Des Peres • Dexter •

Ellisville • Eureka • Exeter • Fayette • Fenton • Ferguson •

Florissant • Gladstone • Grandview • Greendale • Hannibal • Hermann

• Independence • Jackson • Jefferson City • Kahoka • Kansas City •

Kearney • Kirksville • Kirkwood • Lake St. Louis • Liberty • Maplewood

• Marshfield • Maryland Heights • Maryville • Memphis • Mexico •

Mountain View • North Kansas City • Oakland • O’Fallon • Ozark •

Parkville • Plattsburg • Raytown • Richmond Heights • Rock Hill •

Savannah • Springfield • St. Charles • St. Joseph • St. Louis • St. Peters

• Sturgeon • Town & Country • Trenton • Twin Oaks • University City • Warson Woods • Washington • Webster Groves • Willard

This Issue's Staff

Editor in Chief - Ara Clark
Managing Editor - Nichole LeClair
Art Director - Cliff White
Writer/editor - Tom Cwynar
Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Staff Writer - Arleasha Mays
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Ruby
Artist - Dave Besenger
Artist - Mark Raithel
Circulation - Laura Scheuler