The normally-derogatory term “tree-hugger” holds a different meaning in the towns of Wendell and Zebulon.
Both towns are proud of their long-running urban forest management efforts, which have earned the Arbor Day Foundation’s designation of Tree City USA for the past 31 years in Wendell and past 10 years in Zebulon.
Tree City USA recognition is extended to towns that meet four requirements: having a tree board or department, a tree-care ordinance, an annual community forestry budget of at least $2 per capita and an Arbor Day observance and proclamation. The program runs in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters.
The Arbor Day Foundation claims Tree City USA communities experience cleaner air, improved storm water management, energy savings, and an increase in commercial activity and property values.
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“Everyone benefits when elected officials, volunteers and committed citizens in communities like Zebulon make smart investments in urban forests,” said Matt Harris, chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation, in announcing Zebulon’s Tree City USA designation for the 2014 year on Feb. 19. “Trees bring shade to our homes and beauty to our neighborhoods, along with numerous economic, social and environmental benefits.”
While Arbor Day is officially celebrated nationally on the last Friday in April, Zebulon typically holds its observances in the fall. It’s most recent gathering was Nov. 21.
On that date, Zebulon launched a Living Tree Memorial Program with a pink flowering dogwood that was planted in Whitley Park in memory of Dana Griswold. A living tree plaque is also on permanent display at the entrance to the Zebulon Community Center.
“Our efforts over the years would not have been such a success without the continued support from our local businesses and organizations,” Zebulon Planning Director Mark Hetrick said in a statement. “(We’re) also proud the town was able to receive a Growth Award from the Arbor Day Foundation in 2008 for its commitment to community forestry for the following activities: tree planting and maintenance, recycling (tub grinding and mulch deliveries), and street tree pruning.”
In Wendell, a healthy list of upcoming observance dates were released Thursday as Mayor Tim Hinnant proclaimed March 20 the date the town will officially celebrate Arbor Day this year. Wendell also recently received its first Growth Award recognition.
Celebrations are planned for the following times and locations: Thursday, March 19, 8:30 a.m at Wendell Middle; Friday, March 20, 9 a.m. at Wendell Elementary, 2:30 p.m. at Lake Myra Elementary; and Thursday, March 26, 2:30 p.m. at Carver Elementary.
Students at each school will plant a dogwood, redbud or willow oak honoring their graduating class. The town is also set to receive its 32nd straight Tree City USA recognition during the event at Wendell Elementary.
A final celebration is set for Friday, March 27, at 1 p.m. at the J. Ashley Wall Town Square. That event will double as a Wendell Tree Board tree care seminar, and will be open to the general public.
At all five events in Wendell, tree board members will speak on Arbor Day history, the Tree City USA program, types and uses of trees and proper planting and care techniques.