Cassville considers Tree City USA membership

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Exeter has been member for 20 years

The city of Cassville is considering membership in Tree City USA, a national tree program that works in conjunction with the Arbor Day Foundation.

The tree program, in force since 1976, provides national recognition for communities who become members, and guidance for creating a sustainable, urban forestry program. Trees provide shade, clean the air, increase property values, reduce costs for energy, erosion, and storm water management, and provide aesthetic beauty, the program said.

About 3,400 communities are members, including the city of Exeter, which has been a member for 20 years and just celebrated its 21st year of membership with a tree planting.

Jon Skinner, Community Forester with the Missouri Department of Conservation, has been working with the city on joining the program.

"It takes the right person or people to be there at the time to start the program, then maintain it," Skinner said. "Twenty-one years ago, Kirk Wynns was open to Exeter becoming a Tree City USA. He worked with the MDC forestry and the city to make that happen. Cassville has been invited to the program over the years. Some invitations were by a MDC forester, some were through newsletters and mailings. The right person or people were not there at those times. It appears Cassville has the right combination of people to move toward this recognition at this time."

Wynns, a municipal arborist with a degree in urban forestry, said having more trees is a great benefit for any community.

"Trees provide oxygen and scrubs the air of pollution," he said. "[With membership], people would have trees they didn't have before to enjoy. People especially like flowering trees."

Wynns said as a requirement of the program, cities have to spend $2 per capita [per person] each year.

"Our biggest expense [in Exeter] comes from maintenance work, plus an hourly wage for employees to go out and prune and water trees, and use of machinery to cut down trees and dig up roots," he said. "I'm sure [Cassville] spends quite a bit in trees and damage mitigation due to flooding, so that can be construed as an expense for trees. You can't have trees in right-of-ways or that are hazardous."

Trees can be an economical benefit, too, by increasing property values an adding beauty.

"Our green infrastructure is likely the only part of our city's infrastructure that actually increases in value and service over time," Wynns said.

Skinner said there are no big startup costs involved, and there are only four requirements a city must fulfill in order to obtain and maintain a membership.

"The community needs to create a tree ordinance that meets minimum standards, create a tree board, hold an Arbor Day observance and create and read a proclamation about Arbor Day," he said.

Last, they must establish a community tree program with an annual budget of $2 per capita on urban forestry projects.

"I stated at the [Cassville] council meeting that I would purchase and plant their first Arbor Day tree if they decide to work toward becoming a Tree City USA," Skinner said. "Most communities are already spending $2 per capita, they just do not properly account of it. It is my understanding Cassville already does spend at least the $2 per person."

"I think having more trees would draw more people to the downtown area," said Valerie Speer, board member of the Cassville Main Street Association, which has had plans underway for the last few years to add trees and improvements to the city. "We got [adding trees] approved [by the city], and Carolyn Bishop had submitted plans to MoDOT for the sidewalks. I'm not sure what stage that's in, but it would allow us to plant three trees per block and hopefully some light posts."

"The council hasn't decided anything yet," said Bill Shiveley, Cassville mayor. "It will be up for discussion at the next meeting. The program has some good points and bad points. There are some other programs where you have to have an arborist on staff, and I don't know if the city is in a position to do that. There are some grants that provide funding, and depending on how deep we get into it, that might make a difference.

"We have a hard time finding people to fill the boards we have now. We've run into some issues with that on right-of-ways and trees you can trim. We will discuss and get a recommendation on whether its something they can do or not."

Arbor Day is usually celebrated with a tree planting, but can also be observed with an award ceremony that honors local tree planters, or involve a week-long event that brings the community, schools, conservation agencies, utility companies, fire departments and residents together.

For more information about the program, people may visit www.arborday.org.

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