Tree City USA is a distinction bestowed upon qualifying cities and towns that meet specific criteria determined by the program’s creator, the Arbor Day Foundation.
In order to be considered for this tribute to green, a city must meet four core standards, including:
n Staff a Tree Board or department;
n Implement a Tree Care Ordinance;
n Fund a Community Forestry Program with an annual budget of at least $2 per capita; and
n Host an Arbor Day observance and proclamation.
Status as a Tree City USA means Cleveland demonstrates consistent “... commitment to effective urban forest management,” Tennessee’s longest-serving mayor told the Cleveland Daily Banner. “To achieve and to maintain our Tree City USA designation, the city had to meet all four requirements.”
Rowland explained how the city achieved all four core standards.
One was the Cleveland Shade Tree Board whose volunteer members give an untold number of hours to protecting Cleveland’s existing landscape while working to preserve trees while educating the public about their value.
Cleveland’s second step was the establishment, and the preservation, of the Shade Tree Ordinance which was drawn up years ago by Cleveland businessman and philanthropist Allan Jones who not only helped to set up the board but who led by example with the donation, and planting, of a vast array of trees to the city for the support of school campuses, parks, playgrounds and streets.
The third step, a Community Forestry Program, was satisfied with the hiring of Dan Hartman, Cleveland’s urban forester, who helps to coordinate much of the city’s focus on trees and their preservation.
The fourth criteria is met through the city’s annual sponsorship of an Arbor Day Ceremony.
“I think that I shall never see,
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest,
Against the sweet earth's flowing breast.”
Rowland pointed out confirmation of Cleveland’s 2013 designation comes at an appropriate time. The distinction fell on the same weekend as the annual “It’s All About The Green” environmental fair held on the Cleveland State Community College campus; and, the designation comes only a few days before the city’s Arbor Day Ceremony which this year will include the unveiling of the winner of the recently completed Big Tree Contest.
Tentatively scheduled for Friday, April 26, the city’s Arbor Day commemoration will be held on the site of the Big Tree winner, according to Hartman. As of Friday, Hartman was still busy measuring, and confirming, the sizes and species of almost 20 nominations in the contest.
“The Arbor Day Ceremony will be held on the site of the Big Tree,” the longtime urban forester cited. “At least, that’s our plan. So that site won’t be determined until we finish with all the measuring of the height, diameter and spread of the nominations.”
Hartman is encouraged by the community response to the Big Tree Contest.
“This is a real good number of nominations, and they’ve come from one end of the city to the other,” Hartman said.
They’re also some heavyweights draped in bark.
“Everyone I’ve looked at so far has been very impressive,” Hartman cited. “I knew there were a lot of trees in town, but something (the contest) like this will really put some focus on them.”
He added, “Some of these trees are very large and have been taken care of. For somebody like me in this field, that’s really exciting.”
“A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear,
A nest of robins in her hair.”
The Big Tree Contest, which is well suited for a Tree City USA community, is about more than just size. It’s also about awareness.
“It makes me feel very proud to know I live and work in a city that cares so much for trees and environment in general, and the benefits that come with them,” Hartman cited. “It’s about the aesthetics, the wildlife, and everything that benefits from a tree. It’s good to see the City Council and the entire community support this aspect of the environment.”
Hartman’s not alone in his assessment, and in his excitement about the Tree City USA designation and the Big Tree Contest.
“The Tree Board is very honored that our beautiful city has received this designation,” said Jan Cheek, chair of the Cleveland Shade Tree Board. “This designation comes thanks to the hard work put in not only by the board, but also by our urban forester, Dan Hartman, and his crew, as well as many others.”
Ditto in green for [Allan] Jones whose history with the Tree City USA designation, and his belief in the value of trees to the environment, goes back several decades.
“It was a real battle 21 years ago to get the first Tree City USA designation and it made a lot of people mad, although Mayor Rowland was instrumental in seeing it succeed and making it a priority for our community,” Jones said. “It gives me great pleasure today to drive around Cleveland and see all of the tree-lined streets.”
“Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.”
In keeping to his beliefs and “walking the walk” when it comes to tree preservation and awareness, Jones said he intends to plant a tree at Yates Primary School in recognition of the fact that “... trees are for the next generation.” Jones’ granddaughter attends the school.
While making the Tree City USA announcement, Rowland praised the efforts of Jones, Hartman, Cheek and all members of the Shade Tree Board — as well as others — whose hands have touched the future of Cleveland’s clean air and pure water through an ongoing partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation and its Tree City USA campaign.
“Clean air, improved stormwater management, energy savings and increased property values and commercial activity are just a few of the benefits enjoyed by Tree City USA cities,” Rowland stressed. “Trees bring shade to our homes, beauty to our neighbors and neighborhoods, and provide any number of economic, social and environmental benefits.”