Spring has sprung in the city of Independence as they were named a Tree City USA for the 19th year in a row.
The Tree City USA program was created by the Arbor Day Foundation in 1976. According to their website, it is a nationwide movement that provides the framework necessary for communities to manage and expand their public trees. Over 3,400 communities have reached Tree City USA status.
To be recognized as a Tree City, a community must adhere to the four core standards: maintaining a tree board or department, having a community tree ordinance, spending at least 2 dollars per capita on urban forestry, and celebrating Arbor Day.
Independence’s Service Department oversees the trees in the city and is managed by Service Director Leon Karas. Recycling and Special Projects Foreman for the department, Tim Tomko, oversees the crews who plant, remove, and maintain tress.
Tomko explained that a good portion of the service department crews are involved in working with trees. He said the experienced workers on the crew contribute to the city’s ability to maintain the trees.
In addition to having experienced workers, the city uses its own compost made in Independence, which is used in the fertilization process after digging a hole for a new tree. The city has a variety of trees including Cleveland Select Pear, Celebration Maples, Crab Apple, a new species of Ginko, and Red Horse Chestnut.
Tomko says the areas in the city that are tree-heavy are the Mapleshade Cemetery, Elmwood Park, and many developments throughout the city such as Great Oaks and Chestnut Woods Estates. He said the department recently had a unique planting of 36 cherry trees in the common area in the middle of street in Treelawn Circle.
The number of trees planted each year differs. Tomko said last year the Service Department planted 59 trees. Elmwood park is one area where the city is constantly reintroducing Elm trees to stay true to the park’s namesake.
The Division of Forestry under the Ohio Department of Natural Resources administers the Ohio Tree City USA awards. Tomko said, “The Department of Natural Resources has a lot of quality educational programs.” This education includes practices for pruning, cutting, and planting trees.
“It’s a good organization to talk to other communities on the process for installation and survival of trees,” Tomko noted as another Tree City USA benefit. The Ohio Department of Forestry organizes an annual event for cities in Northeast Ohio area who were named tree cities to recognize tree commissions, staff and local officials.
Tomko completes the Tree City application each year and said, “The city does an outstanding job letting us do what we can to meet the criteria.”
To meet the criteria of a celebration for Arbor Day, Independence has a celebration in May when students from the school community in Independence come to help plant a tree on municipal property. The tree is donated by the Independence Garden Club in honor of Arbor Day.
Mayor Anthony Togliatti wrote in his administrative update for March 29 that this year the city will be taking part in the Arbor Day Foundation’s “Community Tree Recovery” program. According to the Arbor Day Foundation’s website, the goal of the initiative is to give trees to residents who lost their trees in major disasters such as floods, tornadoes and wildfires.
Togliatti wrote, “It is my hope that this effort will reinforce the importance and benefit of trees in a community, but more importantly, it can raise the awareness that we can all play a part in restoring the beauty and hope to areas and communities where so much has been lost.” Donations for the tree recovery are currently being accepted at City Hall or the Civic Center until May 3.