Sunday, August 30, 2009

Tree City USA: A Policy Proposal

As Mayor Schilly announced at the Jefferson & Virginia STP Road Project public hearing on August 17th, the Crystal City City Council will need to repeal an ordinance banning tree lawns between sidewalks and streets. The STP project calls for the addition of several blocks of tree lawns to enhance the aesthetic quality of our community and its roadways.

Our Proposal: The city should not just repeal the tree lawn ban ordinance, but instead join our neighbor Herculaneum as active caretakers of our community forest by becoming a Tree City USA.

What is the Tree City USA program?
(courtesy of the Arbor Day Foundation's "What is Tree City USA?")
The Tree City USA program, sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation in cooperation with the USDA Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters, provides direction, technical assistance, public attention, and national recognition for urban and community forestry programs in thousands of towns and cities that more than 120 million Americans call home.

* There are 3,310 communities that are currently a Tree City USA.
* There are 534 communities that received a Growth Award.
* Over 120 million people live in a Tree City USA.
In Jefferson County, the only city with Tree City status is Herculaneum, with 2 years of membership.

Why should Crystal City become a Tree City USA?
(courtesy of The Arbor Day Foundation's 15 Reasons to be a Tree City)

Being a Tree City...

1. Encourages better care of community forests.

2. Touches the lives of people within the community who benefit daily from cleaner air, shadier streets, and aesthetic beauty that healthy, well-managed urban forests provide.

3. Recognizes and rewards communities for annual advancements in urban forestry practices.

4. Increases public awareness of the many social, economical and environmental benefits urban forestry practices.

5. Provides education to improve current urban forestry practices.

6. Builds cooperation between public and private sectors to effectively manage urban forests.

7. Encourages, supports, and strengthens effective urban forestry programs in diverse communities nationwide.

8. Can make a strong contribution to a community’s pride.

9. Serves as a blueprint for planting and maintaining a community’s trees.

10. Puts people in touch with other communities and resources that can help them improve their program.

11. Brings solid benefits to a community such as helping to gain financial support for tree projects and
contributing to safer and healthier urban forests.

12. Helps present the kind of image that most citizens want to have for the place they live or conduct business.

13. Tells visitors, through signage, that here is a community that cares about its environment.

14. Sometimes gives preference over other communities when allocations of grant money are made for trees or forestry programs.

15. Provides a way to reach large numbers of people with information about tree care.

How does Crystal City become a Tree City?
(courtesy of the Arbor Day Foundation's Tree City USA Standards)
To qualify for Tree City USA, a town or city must meet four standards established by The Arbor Day Foundation and the National Association of State Foresters.

These standards were established to ensure that every qualifying community would have a viable tree management plan and program.

It is important to note that they were also designed so that no community would be excluded because of size.

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

In addition to the benefits listed above, by adopting a tree care ordinance Crystal City can ensure that specific trees are planted in tree lawns-- trees that will not buckle sidewalks as many of our current trees do.  A well written tree care ordinance will also ban dangerous and destructive trimming practices such as "topping" trees and other improper cutting methods.  It is also possible to establish rules for tree removal and most importantly require the replacement of trees that are removed due to construction, roadwork, or general property improvement.  Stewardship of our community forest requires a combination of regulation, replacement, and regular cutting and maintenance, all of which would be established under a dedicated line item in the city budget at a rate of $2/per capita (or approx 9k) each year. 

Our community forest is a precious resource, one which greatly enhances our property values, our quality of life, and our attractiveness to visitors and residents alike.  Many people come to Crystal City from the surrounding area to make use of our streets and sidewalks because they are well kept and beautifully lined with many trees.  Younger and more affluent people look for a city's commitment to its community forest as a factor in determining where they live and shop.  Retail establishments also look at programs like Tree City USA as a trigger for a community's readiness for their goods and services.  Best of all, a city committed to its community forest looks beautiful and promotes a healthier, more environmentally conscious way of life. 

Together, a Complete Streets policy and a Tree City USA program can begin to transform Crystal City into a modern community that will fight to keep its young professionals, attract new investments and new ideas, and embrace a spirit of positive change to improve our quality of life. 

Lets work together in an open, community based planning process to make Crystal City a Tree City USA!

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