The City of Alpharetta has been a Tree City USA for 22 years. Our City of Alpharetta Arborist, David Shostak, to whom we introduced our readers in last week’s column, files the City’s application for Tree City USA status every year on behalf of the City. But, what does it really mean to be a Tree City USA?
First, a bit of background; The Tree City USA program is sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation, in cooperation with the USDA Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters. The program’s purpose is to provide guidance, technical assistance, and local and national recognition for forestry (tree management) plans and programs in thousands of towns and cities throughout the U.S.A. Alpharetta is actually one of more than 3400 U.S. communities that are currently designated as Tree City USA communities.
In order to qualify as a Tree City USA community (and then continue to maintain that status), Alpharetta must demonstrate that it meets four standards established by the Arbor Day Foundation and the National Association of State Foresters. Alpharetta must show that it has a tree board or department; a tree care ordinance; a community forestry program with an annual budget of at least $2 per capita, and an Arbor Day Observance and Proclamation. The Arbor Day Foundation and the National Association of State Foresters established these standards in order to ensure that communities seeking Tree City USA status would create and maintain their tree management plans.
Alpharetta has met and exceeded the Tree City USA standards every year for the past 22 years. Alpharetta has a full-time City Arborist on its staff; the City has established and supports its Natural Resources Commission, whose mission is to lead and educate the community to improve, conserve, protect and beautify Alpharetta’s natural resources; and Alpharetta has a tree protection ordinance (whose requirements will be the subject of one of our upcoming columns). In addition, the City maintains a community forestry program with an annual budget of over $200,000. Each year, the City holds an annual Arbor Day celebration in February or March, where the Mayor reads the Arbor Day Proclamation.
What is the benefit to Alpharetta and its residents of being a Tree City USA? The standards themselves initially helped provide the background, direction and education to the City when it first began to create its urban forest management plan. The Tree City USA award and designation helps to remind the residents and visitors that Alpharetta is a tree-friendly City. This designation is also a source of positive publicity to prospective businesses, since it tells those businesses that Alpharetta’s residents value their environment and their quality of life. At the same time it is a source of pride to the residents of Alpharetta to be able to see the many healthy, older, and well cared for trees growing around the City. In addition, the designation has assisted Alpharetta in successfully obtaining allocations of grant money for its tree and forestry programs, since the designation indicates that the care of the City’s trees is important to the City and its residents.
Celebrate Alpharetta’s status as a Tree City USA by planting a sapling in your own backyard, and plan to attend Alpharetta’s Arbor Day celebration next March.