A Chinese proverb states, “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second-best time is now.” The City Beautiful has excelled at both and established a long-standing tradition of planting and caring for trees throughout the city. This dedication has earned the City of Laurel the recognition of the National Arbor Day Foundation who recently awarded the city its 2022 Tree City USA designation.
The Tree City USA program is sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation, partnered with the U.S. Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters, to promote municipal participation in tree management activities and in the observance of Arbor Day.
According to the Arbor Day Foundation, “Laurel achieved Tree City USA recognition by meeting the program’s four requirements: maintaining a tree board or department, having a tree care ordinance, dedicating an annual community forestry budget of at least $2.00 per capita, and hosting an Arbor Day observance and proclamation.”
The City of Laurel has received this designation every year since 1982, making this year’s award it’s 40th. According to a 2021 fact sheet from the Arbor Day Foundation, Mississippi only has 22 Tree City USA communities. These include Laurel, Ellisville, Biloxi, Cleveland, Greenwood, Hattiesburg, Horn Lake, Lucedale, New Albany, Oxford, Starkville, Walnut Grove, Gulfport, Hernando, Long Beach, Meridian, Ocean Springs, Ridgeland, Tupelo, and Waveland and the campuses of Camp Shelby’s Joint Forces Training Center and Keesler Air Force Base.
The City of Laurel is the state’s longest standing tree city with Biloxi (39 years) and Tupelo (36 years) close behind.
“Tree City USA communities see the positive effects of an urban forest firsthand,” said Dan Lambe, chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation. “The trees being planted and cared for by Laurel are ensuring that generations to come will enjoy a better quality of life. Additionally, participation in this program brings residents together and creates a sense of civic pride, whether it’s through volunteer engagement or public education.”
“Over the last few years, the value and importance of trees has become increasingly clear. Cities and towns across the globe are facing issues with air quality, water resources, personal health and well-being, and energy use. Laurel has taken steps to create a brighter, greener future,” Lambe wrote in a letter congratulating Laurel Mayor Johnny Magee on the city’s accomplishment.
To mark the event, Dionne Rhodes, Roland Dean, Devonta Moffett, and Carl McClendon of the City of Laurel Public Works Department and Sandra Bateman, Cathy Padgett, and Terri Knight of the Laurel Tree Board met with Mayor Magee on Friday, February 10th to plant a bald cypress at Euclid Park, a 4.5 acre park between 5th and 6th Avenue, and an oak tree at Mason Park, located on 7th Avenue.
Arbor Day will be celebrated on Friday, April 28, 2023.
For more information about Mississippi’s Tree Cities please visit: https://www.arborday.org/programs/treecityusa/documents/2021/states/Mississippi.pdf
For more information on the Arbor Day Foundation, please visit ArborDay.org.