Metal Tree City USA sign

Summer Road Trip "Tree Cities"

Most summers, but especially this 2020 summer, you may have had to alter your travel plans to accommodate Covid19 restrictions. Instead of a flight out of town you might be hitting the road to get out exploring, and to make those long road trips more interesting you might be taking those more scenic routes. Often there are interesting and historic places to visit along the way and as you enter a new city and you may have noticed a green and white plaque which reads "Tree Cities USA" wondering what that means. Turns out, there is quite a bit of work and effort to get that little sign and it means a great deal for our planet. 

The Arbor Day Foundation, Tree City USA program has been building tree canopy in cities and towns across America since 1976. It is a nationwide movement that provides the framework necessary for communities to successfully manage and expand trees in public spaces. But, there are a set of criteria each city has to meet.

To qualify as a Tree City USA community, you must meet four standards established by the Arbor Day Foundation and the National Association of State Foresters. These standards were established to ensure that every community would have a viable tree management program and that no community would be excluded due to size.

  • Someone must be legally responsible for the care of all trees on city- or town-owned property. Often, both professional staff and an advisory tree board are established, which is a good goal.
  • A public tree care ordinance forms the foundation of a city’s tree care program. It provides an opportunity to set good policy and back it with the force of law when necessary.
  • Providing support at or above $2 per capita, a community demonstrates its commitment to grow and tend these valuable public assets. 
  • An effective program for community trees would not be complete without an annual Arbor Day ceremony. Citizens join together to celebrate the benefits of community trees and the work accomplished to plant and maintain them.

As you can see it take some great planning and commitment to obtain this special recognition. A group of dedicated planners and tree lovers took time to make trees a priority in their city for all to enjoy!

Here in Utah over 50 cities have established themselves as Tree Cities. Springville and Murray have been registered for 40 years! Brigham City, Provo and Salt Lake City for over 30 years. Even Hill Air Force Base has a designation nearing 30 years. You can find a complete list by state here:

The benefits of a larger tree canopy for cities is undeniable, studies show:

Trees yield 3–5 times their cost in overall benefits to the city.

As few as three additional trees planted around each building in the United States saves $2 billion every year in energy costs.

Properly placed trees often increase property values from 7–20%. 

Trees and green spaces directly correlate to greater connections to neighbors, happier, healthier and safer areas us now and into future generations.

Next time you hit the road challenge yourself and your passengers to spot those "Tree City USA" signs and take a moment to reflect on the trees in the area, knowing someone took some time to make sure trees will be protected for everyone to enjoy and make your road trips all that more enjoyable when you get out to stretch those legs and breathe in some cool air in the shade or picnic.

Tree City USA is an Arbor Day Foundation program in cooperation with these great tree protectors: