Montrees: Montreat recognized as Tree City USA, part of national community

Ezra Maille
Black Mountain News
Montreat has been named a Tree City USA for the seventh time.

MONTREAT - The town of Montreat was recognized as a Tree City USA for its seventh year, first receiving the designation in 2015. 

"We're always pleased that we're awarded Tree City USA," said Mayor Tim Helms. "It's a happy designation for Montreat."

Helms thanked the Tree Committee for all its work in maintaining town trees, taking inventory and removing and planting trees when necessary. 

Tree City USA is the longest standing program at the Arbor Day Foundation, according to Alana Tucker, the program manager for Tree City Programs. She said the program was founded in 1976 in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters. 

"Collectively, those two organizations decided to leverage their respective strengths to celebrate and incentivize urban forest management at the municipal level," Tucker said. 

The program developed into what it is today, an annual recognition of U.S. cities in maintaining and building urban forests. 

Montreat makes up a piece of a 3,600 Tree City USA network of municipalities encompassing a combined population of 155 million. Tucker said this equates to roughly 1 in 2 Americans living in a Tree City USA. 

A group of volunteers known as the Ivy League in Montreat works to remove invasive ivy on public land.

Tucker said the most important step in earning a Tree City USA designation comes from taking responsibility for public trees by differentiating municipal trees from private trees. Another important piece comes from enacting laws to protect trees, typically in the form of a tree ordinance. 

"The ordinance also has something in it to guide the planting, maintenance and removal of public trees," Tucker said. 

Tucker said cities must have a tree ordinance of some sort to qualify.

Tree City USA also requires communities to retain a budget of $2 per capita invested in urban forestry as well as an Arbor Day proclamation. Investment can encompass volunteering and donations to meet the requirement. 

Applications continue to roll in for the 2022 Tree City USA program. Tucker said the program makes up the foundation and beginning for urban forestry, not necessarily the destination. 

"It's not meant to be the endgame," Tucker said. "It's mean to just be the foot in the door for more opportunities to advance in urban forestry management."

Ezra Maille covers the town of Black Mountain, Montreat and the Swannanoa Valley. Reach him at 828-230-3324 or emaille@blackmountainnews.com. Please support local journalism with access to more breaking news by subscribing.