A Taste Of Tree City USA In Wisconsin

Started in 1976, Tree City USA is one of the Arbor Day Foundation’s oldest programs. The founders had a vision for a greener, healthier America and hoped this initiative would inspire change on a nationwide level. The first Tree City USA cohort was comprised of 42 communities in 16 states. Today, the program includes more than 3,600 communities from all 50 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico.

Publicly demonstrating commitment to the environment is a great way to build pride among residents, as well as position your community as an attractive place to live. The Tree City USA program provides communities with a four-step framework to maintain and grow their tree cover. It also gives them an avenue to celebrate their work, showing residents, visitors and the entire country that they’re committed to the mission of environmental change.

Here are just a few examples of the 193 Tree Cities in Wisconsin.

A Tree City Pioneer – Arcadia

The newest city in Wisconsin to earn its Tree City USA status is Arcadia. Arcadia is the first community in Trempealeau County to ever achieve such status. In its busy year, the community continued the tree planting program and successfully applied for a 2024 regular urban forestry grant to complete the city’s first inventory and management plan.

Investing In Education – La Crosse

Recertifying Tree Cities also have the option to apply for Growth Awards, which recognize communities that go above and beyond the four core Tree City USA standards during the year. La Crosse received its fifth consecutive Growth Award in 2023. There was a clear focus on education in their application both for city staff and community members. Staff continued their education through Wisconsin Arborist Association conferences and workshops. Community members had the opportunity to learn about tree planting and care at a community tree walk. This all plays a part in the city’s goal to increase community-wide tree cover to 35% by 2040.

Making A Comeback In A Big Way – The City of Racine

Located along Lake Michigan in Southeastern Wisconsin, the city of Racine is home to roughly 27,000 street and park trees. Racine received its first Tree City USA designation back in 1976; however, after a gap of not maintaining Tree City USA status, Racine’s forestry department was reinvigorated in 2008. It has now received Tree City USA status for the past 16 years straight and earned eight Growth Awards during that timeframe. The City of Racine maintains a thorough tree inventory, which is updated on a consistent basis as work is performed. This allows the city to efficiently perform management practices, including planting, cycle pruning, storm response and more. It has committed to reforestation and afforestation efforts and plants about 1200 public trees each year. Racine prides itself on its innovative practices, including being a leader in gravel bed implementation with one of the largest gravel beds in the Midwest.

Leading The Way – Stevens Point

Stevens Point is a leader in North Central Wisconsin when it comes to creating and maintaining a healthy urban forest, increasing tree species diversity and implementing innovative approaches to urban forestry. It is one of Wisconsin’s oldest Tree City USA designees (they’re celebrating 43 years this year) and have earned 19 Growth Awards – only Greenfield has earned more.

To achieve its Growth Award this year, Stevens Point updated part of its tree inventory, purchased an air spade and created a gravel bed. The airspade will help excavate around trees that have excess bark built up over the years and will aid in root pruning due to sidewalk replacement. According to Stevens Point Forestry and Landscape Operations Superintendent Todd Ernster, the gravel bed “enabled us to draw out the planting season and to promote better root growth on many different species of trees that we would not normally have available to us. The gravel bed opened a wide variety of new trees for us to plant. It went way better than I ever expected.”

The Smallest (But Mighty) Tree City In Wisconsin – The Village of Gilman

With only 378 residents, the village of Gilman is the smallest community in Wisconsin to earn the Tree City USA designation, but it is no less dedicated. This year, Gilman will be celebrating 36 years as a Tree City USA awardee. Each year, the village hosts an interactive Arbor Day celebration that involves a poster contest and other activities for kids. The staff makes tree canopy in Gilman a top priority and never hesitate to contact their urban forestry coordinator with tree-related questions.

On The Cutting Edge – The Village of Brown Deer

The village of Brown Deer has earned a Tree City USA designation from the Arbor Day Foundation for 27 straight years, including two Growth awards in 1998 and 2013. Like all communities in southeastern Wisconsin, and now much of the state, it has been dealing with the aftereffects of Emerald Ash Borer and grappling with the challenges associated with the reforestation of the urban tree canopy. Brown Deer committed to monitoring and managing their urban forest by completing a village-wide tree inventory in 2017. This year, Brown Deer has recommitted resources to its urban forest by updating its entire inventory to reflect the large changes in the tree canopy over the past seven years. The village also stays at the forefront of the industry by holding internal trainings to ensure staff are performing tree work consistent with modern best management practices. Brown Deer will be holding its annual Arbor Day celebration on Monday, May 13, 2024, at 1 p.m. at Village Hall, 4800 W. Green Brook Drive.


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