Our City: A year filled with trees and achievements!
by Tom Rowland
Dec 12, 2013 | 694 views | 0 0 comments | 36 36 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Last spring our city earned its 21st consecutive Tree City USA designation from the National Arbor Day Foundation.

I could not let this year end without thanking the dedicated and enthusiastic group of people who serve on our Cleveland Shade Tree Board. Its members are Matt Coleman, Jeff Morelock, Dennis Epperson, Tom Wheeler, Amy Banks, George Poe Jr., Jo Benjamin, Tim Henderson and Chairwoman Janice Cheek.This group works throughout each year to make this annual recognition possible. Cleveland's Urban Forester Dan Hartman serves as an adviser to the board and he is diligent in assuring Cleveland maintains this prestigious status.

Tom Wheeler, who recently retired as president and CEO of Cleveland Utilities, will be leaving the board. Succeeding him will be his successor Ken Webb who is CU’s new president and CEO. Ken has been involved through the years in helping with our tree planting, maintaining and preservation efforts. He brings the same kind of knowledge to the board that Tom has provided through the years.

We thank Tom for his dedication and welcome Ken to our Shade Tree Board.

The Arbor Day Foundation criteria for Tree City USA designation includes having a Tree Board, implementing a tree care ordinance, funding a community forestry program and hosting an annual Arbor Day event. We do all that and more.

Cleveland meets all these benchmarks. Over two decades ago, this designation was one of my goals upon taking office. Fortunately, a lot of people jumped on board. Businesses and individuals who have a passion for the benefit and beauty of trees came forward.

One enthusiast is businessman and philanthropist Allan Jones. He contributed much expertise and financing to the original startup, helping us implement the board, as well as helping put our "tree topping" regulations into place. Long before our board began, he was planting trees and with each and every project he undertakes, he considers trees, whether it be his home or businesses. He inspires us all through his passion and dedication, and we could never accept this award without recognizing the tenacity he has had through the years.

Tree City USA has many practical benefits. The Arbor Day Foundation cites several benefits including how trees reduce costs for energy, storm water management and erosion control. The Foundation relates that the benefits average $273 per tree.

Trees boost property values and enhance rental property. Trees and the green spaces around homes add to a neighborhood's quality of life. This is evident in Cleveland as we see the success of our area parks and our Cleveland/Bradley County Greenway systems.

Like the other boards of citizen volunteers who work hard to enhance Cleveland, our Shade Tree Board members contribute untold hours to our community.

One of the board's successes this year was sponsorship of The Big Tree Contest which saw a long list of nominations submitted to the board. The winning tree was along North Ocoee Street at Bi-Lo Crossing and is now officially designated for passersby to see.

Donating trees in honor of the memory of people or groups is something that is a lasting gift, but also one that adds to our environment, our beauty and our economy. The city recently recognized two of our Cleveland City Council members who have sponsored city landscaping additions this past year. They are Councilman Richard Banks and wife, Amy, and Councilman Dale Hughes and wife Brenda.

Trees lining 25th Street/APD 40 have been planted during the past few years, and special engraved stones have been placed at the base to honor or memorialize area veterans. It's part of a project we have ongoing to build a Veterans Park, honoring past and present veterans, in the new Spring Creek Lifestyle Neighborhood.

In the future, as two major building projects are complete, we will begin building a park that will be adjacent to the Greenway that takes walkers from downtown Cleveland, underneath the 25th Street/APD 40 roadway and into Spring Creek. The park will be adjacent to a new Hardee’s restaurant to begin soon and to be finished in 2014.

The trees lining the roadway and the neighborhood are a great addition and continue to keep us as a Tree City USA. Trees in memory or honor of a veteran, can be marked with a stone, as well as trees that can be planted along our Greenway system throughout the city and county. More information on this project can be obtained from the Urban Forester's office at the city of Cleveland (423-476-8931). You can have a granite stone placed at the base of a tree at the Spring Creek Neighborhood area or a tree along our Greenway.

During the recent fall season, it was a beautiful drive to work each day through the Lee University campus and historic downtown as the autumn colors were vibrant on the trees lining all the streets and on the campus. When winter is gone, and leaves begin to appear again in the spring, the area will blossom and alert us to the new warmer seasons ahead. Maintaining these trees is important for future generations.

Someone once gave me a quote from Joyce Kilmer, who wrote:

“I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed against the earth's sweet flowing breast.

Poems are made by fools like me.

But Only God can make a Tree." — Joyce Kilmer (1918)

Truly God makes every tree burst with color in the fall and renews them to produce blossoms and leaves in the spring and summer. It's our job to maintain and preserve God's creation. That's why I applaud our Shade Tree Board, our urban forester and “The City With Spirit" that keep us on the map as a Tree City USA.

Look for more exciting projects in 2014. There's more to our city tree story to come!