MDC, Missouri Community Forestry Council announce Arbor Award of Excellence winners

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – For more than 30 years, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and the Missouri Community Forestry Council (MCFC) have honored Missourians for making significant and long-lasting efforts to care for trees in their communities.

A new group of recipients were recognized for their efforts with the Missouri Arbor Awards of Excellence for 2021. The awards were presented by MDC Community Forestry Coordinator Russell Hinnah at the annual Missouri Community Forestry Council Conference Aug. 26 in Branson.

“The Missouri Arbor Awards of Excellence highlight the people and organizations working to provide sustainable, long-term efforts to care for trees,” said Hinnah. “Their work is extremely important to assure the many economic, social, and environmental benefits of a healthy community forest.”

Trees are visible and valuable assets to every community. They provide numerous benefits, including increasing property values, improving air quality, saving energy, protecting watersheds, and stimulating Missouri’s economy.

The Arbor Award of Excellence recognizes communities, institutions, businesses, organizations, and individuals who have improved trees in their community. Any program, project, or event that significantly contributes to the care or maintenance of trees qualifies for an award.

Nominations for this year’s awards were evaluated on sustainability, innovation, use of sound tree management principles; the contribution to the community, and the effectiveness of the tree care work, event, or program. Four winners were recognized.

Individual – Doug Seely, Pine Lawn

Doug Seely works as the forester for Beyond Housing’s 24:1 Initiative, a community development program based in the St. Louis metro-area. Seely directs local municipalities to collaborate on multiple services, such as tree trimming and planting. Through his role, Seely has invested significant time into supporting community forestry programs and has helped to create a community culture in the St. Louis area that prioritizes trees. Additionally, he has continued his own professional development by recently graduating from the 2020 Society of Municipal Arborists Municipal Foresters Institute. He has recently volunteered to take over the role as MCFC St. Louis regional representative.

Organization – Laurie Enhancement Committee

The six-member City of Laurie Enhancement Committee dedicated themselves to achieving Tree City USA status in 2018. The Tree City USA program asks communities to get involved by committing to specific standards of tree maintenance and care, and Laurie has embraced that goal. In 2019, the committee planted 23 trees around Laurie City Hall with the help of a Tree Resource Improvement and Maintenance (TRIM) grant. The cost-share grants assist government entities and non-profit groups with the management, improvement, and conservation of trees and forests on public land. Building on this success, the committee has begun educating schools and organizations about the importance of trees and community forestry. Each Arbor Day, the team travels to nearby Gravois Mills School and Versailles Elementary School to teach students about Arbor Day and to celebrate trees.

Business or Institution – Northwest Missouri State University

The arboretum at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville was established by a state statute in 1993. Over the years, the area grew to include more than 1,500 trees with 160 species represented. When Patrick Ward became the director of the arboretum, he set out to do as much as he could to improve and promote it. An Arboretum Committee was formed, consisting of educators, botanists, facilities personnel, students, and community members. The arboretum also became accredited with ArbNet and the Morton Arboretum. After receiving a TRIM grant from MDC, the committee was able to remove dead trees, prune mature trees, and plant 30 additional trees. The arboretum at Northwest Missouri State University is a place to appreciate the natural beauty of trees while participating in a variety of educational and research opportunities.

Municipality/Government – City of St. Joseph

In June 2019, the City of St. Joseph contracted with a local landscaping company to complete the tree planting component associated with the Blacksnake Creek Project. The project is aimed at separating Blacksnake Creek from the sanitary sewer, removing around two-million gallons per day of perennial creek water from the St. Joseph Wastewater Treatment Facility. The purpose of the tree planting project was to restore the trees that were removed during the Blacksnake Creek Project. By summer 2020, a total of 1,185 trees were planted along Maple Leaf Parkway, Corby Parkway, Northwest Parkway, Northeast Parkway, the Remington Nature Center, Heritage Park, and other locations in northern St. Joseph. The tree planting component of the overall Blacksnake Project has been a collaboration between staff among several city departments, including St. Joseph Parks, Recreation and Civic Facilities, Public Works and Transportation, and Engineering and Water Protection. Without the commitment and cooperation of all departments, these accomplishments for the City of St. Joseph would not have come to fruition.

Find more information on the Missouri Arbor Award of Excellence at