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Branching out: Decatur named Tree City USA

DECATUR – Warren Buffet said someone is sitting in the shade today, because someone planted a tree a long time ago.

The City of Decatur has been planting trees for years and continues to do so with a multiprong approach to growing and maintaining the city’s tree canopies.

The city’s efforts are paying off after being named a 2022 Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation. The recognition honors Decatur’s commitment to effective urban forest management.

The Tree City USA program is sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation, in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters.

To achieve Tree City USA status, Decatur had to meet four requirements:

First, they have to maintain a tree-related board or department.

According to Jonathan Gruber, superintendent of Decatur Parks & Recreation, the city has multiple contributors, primarily from the Alabama Forestry Commission, that act like a board and oversee the city’s tree management.

He said although they are not technically a Board of Directors, they are boots-on-the-ground active in tree planting projects and maintenance.

“I came to Parks & Recreation in 2019 and we had lost our status as a Tree City USA,” said Gruber. “I wanted to get that reinstated and we have been working to accomplish that.”

The second requirement is having a tree care ordinance.

Decatur’s Tree Canopy Conservation ordinance covers planting, pruning, fertilization, lightning protection systems, tree and shrub site planning and maintenance, transplanting, integrated vegetation and pest management, tree risk assessment, and tree support systems.

In addition to that, Gruber said Decatur has tree ordinances that encourage the conservation of the tree canopy and provide minimum requirements for the protection, maintenance, renewal, and increase of tree canopy cover across the city.

“Multiple crews from the city and utilities work to maintain the trees throughout the city,” Gruber said. “We have an ordinance for dead tree removal, stump removal, leaf and brush pick-up, insurance, and survey inventory expenses.”

The last two requirement are an established annual community forestry budget of at least $2 per capita, and the city must host an Arbor Day observance and proclamation.

Gruber said the city has several groups including the Decatur Historical Preservation Commission that gather to have community tree plantings on and around Arbor Day, but all year ’round as well.

“Decatur works with historical neighborhood associations to plant a tree every year in the historic Albany neighborhood of old Decatur, and we just planted some maple trees last week,” he said.

Communities worldwide are facing issues with air quality, water resources, personal health and well-being, energy use, and extreme heat and flooding. Decatur is doing its part to address these challenges for residents both now and in the future.

“Tree City USA communities see the positive effects of an urban forest firsthand,” said Dan Lambe, chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation. “The trees being planted and cared for by Decatur are ensuring that generations to come will enjoy to a better quality of life.

“Additionally, participation in this program brings residents together and creates a sense of civic pride, whether it’s through volunteer engagement or public education.”

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