When a Tree City Remembers Why It is Called a Tree City

I live in what is known as a Tree City, which is a designation given By the Arbor Day Society to cities who meet a few basic rules.

These Rules are:

  1. They must have a Tree Department (Tree Department? I think that’s the Tax Department. They certainly kill enough of them with all those forms)
  2. There must be a Tree Ordinance in effect in the city (We declare that there will be trees… of some kind… somewhere… as long as they don’t get in the way of important things… like parking lots)
  3. They must spend at least $2 per resident on the care and planting of trees (Well, we invested the money into the squirrel breeding program. We thought that then the little guys could just plant the trees for us. Look, we even bought the squirrels some cute little t-shirts. The mayor’s daughter makes ’em for us and they are only $36 each. We ordered 10,000)
  4. They must observe Arbor Day in some manner (Look Jan, the calendar says it’s Arbor Day. I wonder why they have a day dedicated to pretty little garden arches?)

New TreeI personally think that the 4th one is a push on the Arbor Day Foundation’s part to bring more publicity to the whole Arbor Day thing, like candy companies trying coming up with Sweetest Day as a way to sell more candy (I don’t care if he said it was for the orphans. Somebody still bought more candy). But I suppose I can’t really pick on the Arbor Day foundation too much. They give out the Tree City designation, so I guess they can use it to promote whatever they want.

But back to my city being a Tree City.

I have to say, I have lived in this town for 5 years and I have never really heard about 1, 2 and 4 happening in around my city. But, in my mind, they really don’t mean too much as long as I see plenty of evidence of #3. Didn’t really see too much of that either… up until this past week.

In an ideal world, money on tree maintenance would be spent on nothing more than planting trees and Arbor Day celebrations. But trees are no different than any other plant in our own personal gardens. They need love. They get sick. They sometimes die. Sometimes, some moron with a tree size weed wacker (be it a car, a bull dozer or a volcano mulch) brings about the untimely death of a tree.

City trees really are just like huge plants in a city wide garden. Some live and flourish and they need care. Some die and when they do die, they must be replaced.

This past week, the city did just that.

Which caught me by surprise. As stated, I have lived here for 5 years and the only tree maintenance I saw was trees being removed. The only trimming I saw was when the electric company stopped by. And to say that the electric company “trimmed” the trees is kind of like saying Civil War battlefield surgeons performed surgery.

I really had thought that the city was just giving lip service to the whole Tree City thing. I watched in sad resignation as venerable old trees, damaged and eventually killed by careless contractors replacing sidewalks, came down one after another. And never a new tree to be seen to take their place.

Until this week.

Coming home one evening, I was greeted by an unfamiliar street. There were suddenly no gaps in the house tree house tree house stump staccato that I was use to. The low hanging branches of the tree on the hell strip in front of my house were gone, with only a few pale patches evidence that the branches ever existed. No longer would mothers with strollers have to duck and dodge while passing my house.

The city had planted trees. The city had trimmed the trees. Not hacked, but thought about it, only took what was necessary trimmed the trees.

I am impressed. And, what impresses me even more is that the trees they planted were investment trees. They are not the quick growing, fluezy, ornamental, fly-by trees frequently planted these days by suburban landscapers. You know, the crab apples and dogwoods that dazzle and wow you in just a few years but die off in under 20 and rarely get to a height taller than your average NBA player.

They planted maples. Yes, maybe maples are the faster growing of the investment tree types, but they planted a tree that was meant to be around for the long term. The kind of tree you could carve your initials in and be pretty sure that your great, great grand children would be able to see them. (Not that I would carve my initials in a tree. I know carving initial is not good for trees, but you get my drift.)

I don’t know what changed. Maybe it was just that someone threatened to pull their precious Tree City status if they did not do something. Maybe the Mayor’s grandchild just opened their eyes to the world environmentalism and bugged their Grandpa about it. Maybe, just maybe (though I am not holding my breath on this one) the city council just realized that planting trees is better for our community than building walls, Mal-Warts and new million dollar city halls.

Whatever the reason. I am glad to see it.

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