25th year as Tree City USA

Merrill celebrated its 25th year as a Tree City USA community with a ceremony at the Merrill Area Recreation Complex last week. The award, given by the National Arbor Day Foundation, is typically received in conjunction with Arbor Day in April. However, a tornado postponed this year’s ceremony.

“We were still very busy cleaning up at that time,” said Merrill Park and Recreation Director/City Forester Dan Wendorf.

A community needs to meet four standards to achieve Tree City USA status: a city forestry program, someone to run that program, a tree maintenance and planting plan, and spend at least $2 per capita on the tree program. Merrill is one of 19 cities in Wisconsin to have achieved Tree City USA status for 25 years. A total of 180 Wisconsin cities received a Tree City USA award in 2011.

Along with the obvious aesthetic benefits, trees hold carbon and pollutants, mitigate storm water and increase property values for a community, noted Don Kissinger, DNR Regional Urban Forestry Coordinator.

Merrill has about 5,600 trees on public property, which accounts for an estimated 20 percent of the total trees in the city. The city prunes on average 580 trees a year and removed 60 last year.

“Part of being a Tree City USA community is maintaining what you have and replanting,” Kissinger said.

“The goal is always to plant more trees than we remove,” Wendorf added.

Following the April 10, 2011, tornado, the city of Merrill successfully applied for a tree planting grant from Polar Bear International, a group that supports tree planting as a means to stop global warming. In 2012 the city will receive $6,250 to plant trees and offer education on the benefits of trees. The city has also applied for a DNR urban forestry grant to replace trees destroyed or damaged by the tornado.

“With the tornado it’s been a strange year,” Wendorf said. “We’re fortunate to have the assistance of the DNR.”

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