City's goal: Become a Tree City USA

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

By declaring Friday this year's Arbor Day in Lewisburg, the City Council has taken another step toward being designated a Tree City USA under the auspices of the Arbor Day Foundation.

"It's easier to get grants if your town is a Tree City," Mayor Bob Phillips said during the City Council meeting in City Hall where City Manager Eddie Fuller asked, apparently in jest, if it would be a holiday for city employees.

"No -- no," Phillips replied with a grin, calling for the vote which was unanimous.

Arbor Day is a nationally-celebrated observance to encourage tree planting and care. Established in 1872, National Arbor Day is celebrated on the last Friday in April. The Arbor Day Foundation's Tree City USA program provides direction, assistance, attention, and national recognition for tree programs in thousands of municipalities, including Murfreesboro, Franklin, Pulaski, Brentwood, Crossville and McMinnville.

"The mayor and I have talked about this off and on," Councilwoman Quinn Brandon said as the subject was raised for Council's consideration. "It would require having a tree board."

Brandon is willing to serve on the board that would work toward getting the city qualified to become a Tree City under the four standards set by the Arbor Day Foundation.

The four requirements for a municipality to be a Tree City are:

> An Arbor Day Observance and proclamation which was accomplished on Tuesday night last week;

> A community forestry program with an annual budget of at Least $2 per capita;

> A tree care ordinance, and;

> A tree board or department.

"We could develop policies on tree planting and pruning," the mayor said.

"I may not be around when it's created," Phillips continued in reference to the requirement for a program to foster a urban forests, "but I'd love to see that for every new house built in Lewisburg, that two trees be planted in the ground."

The $2 per capita budget for the required community forestry program might not have to be in dollars sent directly on trees, he said.

"It could be for Rock Creek Park," Phillips said of an alternative to meet Tree City USA requirements through a program the city might already have planned, or envisioned by local leaders.

Last year, Lewisburg purchased what had been the Murray Farm property across Rock Creek from what's been developed into a music venue during the annual Goats Music and More Festival. The land was used as a parking lot last October, and on Wednesday evening last week, some of the participants in the Tea Party in Rock Creek Park parked in the pasture.

Some of that property is also seen as land that the Water and Wastewater Department might purchase from the city to have a place to build a large holding tank for raw sewage when the treatment plant is at capacity.

Elsewhere in Tennessee, a Tree City has required rows of trees to screen, or create a visual barrier, between a new development and what the motoring public would see in that area.

Discussion among Council members, officials and the general public attending the Tuesday night Council meeting included a couple of other points that were brought up in a lighthearted fashion on the subject of public participation on city panels.

As Brandon announced that she was willing to serve on a tree board that would have to be created to qualify Lewisburg as a Tree City, she was just as quick to point out that if anybody wanted to serve, she'd "let them," as her remark implied she's be glad to surrender her seat to someone who might want to be particularly active.

The mayor took the opportunity to emphasize Brandon's offer by repeating her use of the word "anybody."

"Anybody can apply," Phillips said in a statement pointed at Jerry Freeman, a candidate for mayor who's been publicly at odds with th mayor and hd that evening sought public declarations when opening arise on city committees, commissions, boards and other panels..

Freeman replied that he likes trees and has planted fruit trees.

At another moment during the meeting, the city manager carried the banter a step further.

"Pardon me, Jerry," Fuller said to Freeman, "but what if Mrs.(Barbara) Woods gets elected mayor, and gets put on the tree committee?"

To emphasize the apparent humorous juxtaposition of the last name of the candidate who Freeman faces in the city's May 6 election, Phillips said, "Woods, tree."

Freeman laughed.