During the state of Georgia’s Arbor Day celebration, Athens-Clarke County was recertified as a Tree City USA community, making this 18 years and counting.
To earn this distinction, Tree Cities USA must meet four requirements. They must maintain a tree board or department, have a public tree protection ordinance, spend at least $2 per capita on urban forestry and host a celebration of Arbor Day.
“Trees connect all of us,” said Chuck Williams, Georgia Forestry Commission Director. “Citizens in Tree Cities USA can be proud of their community leaders’ commitment to trees and forested land – on Arbor Day and every other day of the year.”
The TCUSA program is run by the Arbor Day Foundation. On a state level, forestry agencies such as the Georgia Forestry Commission facilitate the program and congratulate Athens tree board members on another year as a Tree City USA community member.
There are 150 Tree Cities USA in Georgia, and 34 were recognized at this year’s celebration. Nearly 30 percent of Georgia’s population lives in a Tree City.
“This is a huge accomplishment, especially in a city as large and diverse as Athens,” said Seth Hawkins, SCFP Community Forester.
The Arbor Day event, which took place on Feb. 15 at Flinchum’s Phoenix, also honored Columbus as the longest running Tree City USA community in Georgia. Columbus has held this title for 40 years.
Although the nationwide Arbor Day is the third Friday in April, it is too warm to plant trees in Georgia at that time of year. Instead, Georgia’s Arbor Day is the third Friday in February.
Gov. Nathan Deal has gone on to name Feb. 16 Arbor Day in Georgia for 2018.
Across the nation, there are over 3,400 Tree City USA communities. The Tree City USA program, established in 1976, provides the framework necessary for communities to take care of and increase the presence of public trees.
“Athens has shown that city tree canopy management is a high priority across the board for all residents,” Hawkins said.
The program encourages communities to aim for their standards of commitment and apply for Tree City USA status if they meet the requirements.
“I work with a lot of communities across the state, and Athens has always been great at not just maintaining their Tree City certification, but actually doing something with their great community tree management capacity,” Hawkins said.