The Arbor Day Foundation has selected sister cities Opelika and Auburn both as 2018 Tree City USA recipients for investing and maintaining the health of their urban forestry.

‘Keep Opelika Beautiful’

“We coordinate with the Opelika Tree Commission, and the commission is charged with ensuring we are a ‘Tree City USA,’" Keep Opelika Beautiful Executive Director Tipi Miller said. “We make sure we meet all the standards required to be a tree city. Opelika has been a Tree City USA for 31 years.”

To earn the title of Tree City USA, cities must meet specific criteria such as establishing a tree department, creating a tree-care ordinance, budgeting $2 per capita for forestry and a proclamation and observance for Arbor Day.

“Opelika has a contract with Asplundh to provide the maintenance for trees along the power lines, and that is important when there is a storm,” Miller said. “We’ve all been through cities where we have seen trees intertwined in the power lines. That’s one avenue our city does a great job of maintaining and staying on top of.”

According to Miller, Opelika also signed a contract with arborist George Barker of Natural Resource Consulting to evaluate and categorize trees within city limits, and as their arborist leads this process, the relationships between city sidewalks and trees is assessed as well as the health of trees in public parks.

“There’s no reason to invest a lot of money in sidewalk renovation and installation if we don’t maintain the trees around that sidewalk,” Miller said. “We have all walked on sidewalks that have buckled because of tree roots, so we want to make sure we’re being responsible with that. Also, we want to make sure, from a safety issue, that the trees within our parks are safe, not about to fall or not rotted out from the inside.”

As responsible stewards of these trees, Miller shared an invitation for residents to attend a community canopy program with Barker at the Opelika Public Library on Thursday from 6:30-7:30 p.m., presenting an opportunity to address tree-related questions and concerns.

Auburn landscape and sustainability division

“This is the 35th consecutive year Auburn has been recognized as a Tree City, and this investment in trees within our community has been going on for a long time,” Mayor Ron Anders said. “I like the idea of us having an Auburn Tree Commission, and I appreciate the effort volunteers place forth working with the commission.”

Anders emphasized the extensive work and beneficial result of Auburn’s Landscape and Sustainability Division directed by Dan Ballard, and as division manager, Ballard ensures the requirements of the Arbor Day Foundation and city needs are satisfied with three programs: beautification, urban forestry and sustainability.

“All of the tress that fall on the city’s rights-of-way, we try to inventory and assess, so we assess the physical health of the tree, structural issues posing as a hazard to public safety or adjacent properties and we manage necessary maintenance of trees,” Ballard said. “It’s any pruning, removal and replanting.”

For replacements and plantings, the division evaluates their selection of trees and chooses the appropriate tree suitable for the specified location such as the 25 willow oaks on East University Drive and 21 Yoshino cherry trees on Moores Mill Road, and they participate in Arbor Day activities, Ballard explained.

“We participate in all of tree giveaway activities with the tree commission like those during the Auburn Christmas Parade, and also, the annual Arbor Day giveaways this upcoming Saturday,” Ballard said. “We have an additional tree giveaway event we are going to do this year associated with the annual neighborhood clean-up activities, so there are a lot of different things.”

Collaborating with the city, the tree commission finds opportune moments to distribute trees to the public, and in a press release, director of public affairs David Dorton encourages citizens to celebrate Arbor Day by picking out a tree from 9 a.m. to noon at the Auburn Kroger, the Publix at Moores Mill and the Publix at Cary Creek.

“In 2018, the city and the Tree Commission gave away 1,000 redbud trees at the Auburn Christmas Parade and 1,000 dogwoods and 250 shumard oaks during Arbor Day celebrations,” Dorton said. “One hundred nuttall oaks will be given away at the 2019 Auburn CityFest in April, and another 1,000 trees will be given away during the 2019 Arbor Day celebrations that will take place the last week of February.”

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