Town seeks to regain Tree City status

Pam King
Special to The Black Mountain News

Can you imagine Black Mountain or Montreat without trees? Think of the unrelenting sun and the oppressive heat.

It’s true you wouldn’t be raking leaves now, but you also would not be enjoying the towns’ rich and diverse flora and fauna. You wouldn’t see many tourists here. In fact, you probably wouldn’t want to be here. Trees make Black Mountain, Montreat and surrounding areas the natural wonders that they are.

Maintaining a healthy tree canopy in an urban environment doesn’t just happen. To support communities in their efforts, the Arbor Day Foundation created the Tree City USA program in 1976. Currently more than 3,400 communities in the United States participate, including Montreat, Weaverville and Asheville.

Black Mountain is working to regain the status of Tree City USA. Celebrating Arbor Day is one of the criteria for doing that. The town will have an Arbor Day celebration from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12 at the Grey Eagle Monument on Sutton Avenue.

The Black Mountain Urban Forestry Commission, chaired by Andrew Wagner, works with town staff to facilitate the planting, growth and protection of trees on publicly held land in town. The Tree Board in Montreat works in a similar fashion and is chaired by Ann Vinson.

While National Arbor Day was celebrated on April 29 this year, each Tree City chooses its own date to celebrate locally. As a newly certified Tree City, Montreat held its celebration April 30 as part of the community’s annual Landcare native plant sale.

Black Mountain has chosen Saturday, Nov. 12 for its Arbor Day celebration this year. Gathering at the Grey Eagle Monument on Sutton Avenue at 9 a.m., the group will remove two dead trees, plant new trees and prune two diseased maples.

“We chose to wait until November for our Arbor Day celebration,” Wagner, a certified arborist, said, “because the fall is the best time to plant trees.”

The public is encouraged to attend this educational event, he said. “This is our third annual Arbor Day,” he said. “It’s part of becoming a Tree City. Other efforts include documenting how much the town of Black Mountain is investing in the urban forest by regular maintenance, tree removal and education.

“Black Mountain has a really old urban forest,” he said. “Most of the canopy is 100-150 years old. We want to promote the retention of this canopy because our town and its economy are dependent on it.”

At, people can enter basic data about trees in their yards and the GIS positions, Wagner said. To help maintain the local tree canopy, Wagner recommends having hemlock trees treated every three years for wooly adelgids.

Black Mountain’s Arbor Day celebration in 2015 included planting trees by Lake Tomahawk, including disease-resistant American Chestnut and American Elms. To honor longtime Urban Forestry Commission chair Van Burnett, a sugar maple was planted and marked with a plaque.

Burnett, whose family was among the original settlers of the Swannanoa Valley, describes an oak tree on his property as possibly the largest tree in Buncombe County. At a height of over 90 feet and a circumference of 29-30 feet, “it might even be the biggest white oak in the United States,” he said.

Buncombe County has three of North Carolina’s 16 “champion” trees, as defined by the American Forestry Association - a hawthorn, a hemlock, and a silverbell. To view the registry, visit

While Burnett served on it, the Urban Forestry Commission gave away 2,500 saplings to be planted locally. It planted a maple park across from Ingles and an urban orchard along the Riverwalk Greenway behind Bi-Lo. It also planted apple trees on the Village Greenway near Black Mountain Elementary. “I wish we could have done more,” Burnett said.

Homeowners can get help caring for their trees at the International Society of Arborculture’s website, “It’s a wealth of information for the public, including how to choose a tree, planting, pruning, and health care,” Wagner said.

For more about Arbor Day and the Tree City USA program, visit

Get growing

Black Mountain’s Arbor Day Celebration will be 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12 at the Grey Eagle Monument on Sutton Avenue