Pickerington's urban forestry program to grow again this year

Nate Ellis
ThisWeek group
Don Rector, Pickerington service director, leads the city's tree-restoration effort. The city will plan about 100 trees this year throughout the community, including at Sycamore Park where Rector is shown Jan. 26.

Pickerington city officials hope to see approximately 100 trees planted this year as they look to further beautify the community and maintain recognized standards of urban forestry.

For the past 27 years, the city has been named a Tree City USA by the national Arbor Day Foundation and National Association of State Foresters for meeting four “core standards” related to tree programming oversight, urban forestry maintenance and budgeting. 

This year, Pickerington is on track to earn the designation for the 28th consecutive year. In addition to planting new trees, its plan for 2021 includes investing approximately $35,000 in its urban forestry program.

“Urban Forestry and the Tree City USA program have a nationwide context,” said Don Rector, Pickerington’s service director. “It is a known way to promote (the idea) that tree preservation and urban forestry are important aspects to our community and subdivisions.”

According to Rector, the city was maintaining an urban forest of more than 7,000 trees, primarily along major roadways, in neighborhood subdivisions and the Sycamore Creek Park Arboretum at the outset of 2021. 

In addition to meeting Tree City USA standards by maintaining the service department’s oversight of tree preservation, maintenance and additions, Pickerington has enacted an ordinance specifying that the department is responsible for overseeing the city’s urban forestry program.

The city also spends at least $2 per capita on an annual basis for tree preservation and enhancements.

In addition to meeting Tree City USA standards by maintaining a board or department to oversee tree preservation, maintenance and additions, Pickerington has earned the designation because it has an ordinance specifying those duties belong to the Service Department. 

Additionally, the past 27 years the city has met the standard of spending at least $2 per capita each year for tree preservation and additions, as well as annually observing and recognizing Arbor Day with a ceremony and proclamation. 

Tree City USA’s core standards state, “City trees provide many benefits – clean air, clean water, shade and beauty, to name a few – but they also require an investment to remain healthy and sustainable. By providing support at or above the $2 per capita minimum, a community demonstrates its commitment to grow and tend these valuable public assets.”

“Budgets and expenditures require planning and accountability, which are fundamental to the long-term health of the tree canopy and the Tree City USA program. 

Pickerington holds an annual Arbor Day observation and Pickerington City Council passes legislation each year to recognize Arbor Day.

Public participation at this year’s Arbor Day event is pending because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. However, the observance is scheduled for April 12 at Willow Pond Park.

Rector said the city typically seeks to plant approximately 100 new trees each year, many of which are earmarked as new subdivisions are constructed.

“The tree-preservation program will continue to promote tree use and preserve existing trees,” he said. “In 2020, we added 116 trees, pruned over 415 existing trees and removed (or) replaced 55 trees.”

Tree species vary throughout the city and in the Sycamore Creek Park Arboretum, but Rector said most are crabapple, maple, sycamore, honey locust and gingko.

Plans are in place to add trees to the Wellington Park, Lake Forest, Spring Grove, Pickerington Ponds, Longview Highlands and Fox Glen subdivisions, Rector said.  

“Every new home in the city will be provided (with) a tree in the area between the road and the sidewalk,” he said. “We try to keep similar trees in each neighborhood.

"We normally do a planting in the spring to replace trees that didn’t make it from the previous year – about 2-5% of the previous year. The bulk of our new tree plantings happen in September and October.  We have found that planting during this time it significantly increases the chances of it surviving." 

The city’s tree program is funded largely by building fees collected when new homes are built.

According to the Arbor Day Foundation, trees provide a wealth of aesthetic and environmental benefits, but also can provide cost savings and economic perks to communities and individuals.

Those include, according to the organization’s website, lower energy costs, better stormwater management and improved erosion control.

The site states as few as three additional trees planted around each building in the U.S. could save $2 billion annually in energy costs because they cut energy consumption by up to 25%.

The Arbor Day Foundation states that “properly placed trees” can increase property values by 7% to 20% and that trees and green spaces “directly correlate to greater connections to neighbors.”

Rector said Pickerington’s program is designed to improve the appearance of the community but also to enhance environmental conditions.

“The city’s tree policy is an important part of the city’s beautification,” he said. “Trees within our community do provide for overall aesthetic improvement, as well as environmental improvements (such as) shade, animal habitats, etc.”

nellis@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNate