Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Baldwin Set for "Tree City" Status

Dead of Winter. A foot of snow or more on the ground. The shortest days of the year. Temperatures rarely or never above freezing and more likely closer to zero.

No one thinks about trees and the greenery of summer in winter? Well, almost no one.

The Baldwin Village Board, under the prompting of Village Public Works Director John Traxler, has taken action that will hopefully result in Baldwin being designated as a "Tree City USA" under a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources program.

What is an "urban forest"?

According to the DNR, "It is all of the trees and other vegetation in and around a town, village or city. Traditionally it has referred to tree-lined streets, but an urban forest also includes trees in home landscapes, school yards, parks, riverbanks, cemeteries, vacant lots, utility rights-of-way, adjacent woodlands and anywhere else trees can grow in and around a community of any size. [Emphasis in original.] Shrubs, flowers, vines, ground covers, grass, and a variety of wild plants and animals are also part of the urban forest. Streets, sidewalks, buildings, utilities soil, topography and, most importantly, people are an integral part of the urban forest. The urban forest is, in fact, an ecosystem."

According to Traxler, all the groundwork has been laid for Baldwin's designation by the DNR as a "Tree City USA. "We have met the criteria and need to finish filling out the paperwork and send it in," said Traxler. "It's just a formality."

At the Board's December meeting, Trustees agreed to amendments to an earlier draft of a village ordinance titled "Trees and Shrubs" and passed the provision. That ordinance states its purpose as "to establish policy for the control of planting, removal, maintenance and protection of trees and shrubs in or upon all public areas and boulevard areas of the Village to eliminate and guard against dangerous conditions which may result in injury to persons using the streets, alleys, sidewalks or other public areas; to promote an enhance the beauty and general welfare of the Village; to prohibit the undesirable and unsafe planting, removal, treatment and maintenance of trees and shrubs located in public areas; and to guard all trees and shrubs both public and private within the Village against the spread of disease, insects or pests."

The ordinance and designation as a "Tree City" "is just saying that the community is trying to green up and beautify and to take care of trees," said Traxler.

He said another important aspect of designation as a "Tree City" is public awareness involving care for trees, removal and pruning.

The benefits of trees are more than just aesthetic. According to information from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the presence of trees may increase property values, if strategically placed can cut summer air conditioning costs and can intercept storm sewer runoff.

A large portion of the village's new ordinance is devoted to types of trees that will be required in "public places," particularly by developers for a new subdivision. "The ordinance specifies what we expect from developers," said Traxler. He noted that two trees of the same genus are prohibited from being planted next to each other. Among the genus of trees that are allowed for in the ordinance are: maples, oaks, birches, honey locusts, elms and miscellaneous trees of other genus.

One aspect of the "Tree City" designation is an inventory of existing trees that are considered "public", or in parks or along a boulevard. The count reached 1,522 public trees in the village.

Traxler said a Tree Board has been created consisting of himself, Trustee Claire Stein, Village Engineer Mike Stoffel and Chris Ruch a certified arborist with St. Croix Tree Service. Traxler said there is an opportunity for volunteers to serve on the tree board in several capacities and persons interested in serving can contact him at 684-2535.

The Tree Board will also plan for tree removal of trees that are hazardous. Many of the silver maples planted on boulevards are in that category, said Traxler, and removal in the winter is sometimes best because it results in the least amount of damage to lawns and boulevards.