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Known in Western North Carolina as a community of woodlands enjoyed by residents and visitors alike, Montreat has been named a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation.

At the April 14 meeting of the town board of commissioners, Shane Baker of the North Carolina Forest Service presented the award to mayor Tim Helms. In his acceptance, Helms reflected on the importance of Montreat’s forest canopy.

“It is obvious that healthy trees are essential to the quality of life in our community,” he said. “Trees enrich us with their beauty ... while stabilizing stream banks and hillsides. As someone with a business background, I also see the economic benefits of our forest in enhancing home and neighborhood values and attracting tourists.”

The Montreat Board of Commissioners recently established a “tree board” of citizens and staff to address issues on public lands and rights-of-way. Commissioner Ann Vinson chairs the group.

“Our town employees do a great job in preventing trees from becoming hazards in public areas such as along roads,” she said. “Tree City status recognizes their dedication and will help us obtain resources for continued arborist training, make FireWise education more available to the community and assist with new plantings as the older trees die.”

FireWise is a National Fire Protection Association program that encourages communities and homeowners to prepare their homes against the threat of wildfire. Other Tree Cities in Buncombe County are Asheville, Black Mountain and Weaverville, said Baker, who also serves as Buncombe County forest ranger.

Vinson and town administrator Ron Nalley reminded attendees that the Montreat Arbor Day celebration will be held Saturday, April 30, at the Moore Center and Field adjacent to Lake Susan. The celebration is a part of the community’s annual Landcare native plant sale.

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