Marine on St. Croix received Tree City USA recognition this spring from the Arbor Day Foundation.
To earn the recognition, a municipality must create a tree-care policy, maintain an annual budget for community forestry and establish a tree board or committee. In addition, the community must honor Arbor Day each year.
Tree Cities benefit from improved visual appeal, increased property values, reduced home cooling costs, cleaner air and more wildlife, according to the Arbor Day Foundation.
“Tree City USA communities see the impact an urban forest has in a community first hand,” Dan Lambe, president of the Arbor Day Foundation, said in a press release. “Additionally, recognition brings residents together and creates a sense of community pride, whether it’s through volunteer engagement or public education.”
This year, Marine residents will celebrate Arbor Day celebration by planting a gravel bed with young trees. The exact date is to be determined. Plans are also in the works to acknowledge the Tree City recognition at a sing along with Dan Chouinard April 26, Arbor Day.
Marine’s urban forest
In Marine, work is underway on an urban forest plan, a project spearheaded by Marine resident John Goodfellow.
“An urban forest can loosely be described as including trees growing in close association with people, and typically include trees that occur in managed landscapes,” Goodfellow said. “Urban trees have a well-documented positive impact on water quality, are effective in moderating storm water flows, and generally increase the quality of life within communities in the St. Croix Valley.”
Timing is right for the initiative. Goodfellow is completing training as a St. Croix Watershed Steward, a program funded by an EPA grant awarded to the St. Croix River Association and St. Croix Valley Foundation. The project requires a capstone project, and developing an urban forest plan fits the bill.
The forestry project also helped Marine achieve recognition in the Minnesota GreenStep Cities program.
Goodfellow noted that the City of Marine is updating its comprehensive plan, creating an opportunity to include consideration of the community’s urban forest in the larger planning process. Once adopted, the plan will guide future management and stewardship of Marine’s urban forest.
One factor pressing Goodfellow forward is the threat of an invasive insect.
“Urban and natural forests throughout the St. Croix River watershed are facing the near total loss of ash (Fraxiuns spp.) due to the coming infestation of the Emerald Ash Borer,” he said. “The result will be loss of a significant portion of landscape trees throughout the city.”
Developing a plan
Goodfellow intends for the urban forest plan to be developed in an open and inclusive process. Community members with an interest in trees and green spaces in Marine are invited to participate in a survey identifying trees significant because of their size, species or role in area history. Results will help guide development of the vision for preserving and enhancing Marine’s green infrastructure.
As a Watershed Steward capstone project, the effort to develop an urban forest plan is being supported by a $1500 grant from EPA, matched by in-kind and direct support from Marine and the project team. The City of Marine is hosting the project and administering funds, and the GreenStep City committee is participating in the project.
Sharing the tool kit
Goodfellow has a second objective for his capstone project: developing a tool kit other municipalities in the St. Croix River watershed can use to create their own urban forestry plans.
“The focus is on small communities, like Marine, with limited budgets and staff,” he said, “with the hope that it will make it easy for them to successfully develop their own urban forest management plans.”