Hayesville, KS (July 17, 2010)- Kansas towns have been hit hard by the economic downturn, according to Tim McDonnell, community forestry coordinator for the Kansas Forest Service. A strange thing happened last year, however, even as belt-tightening led six towns to drop out of the KFS´s urban forestry program, known as Tree City USA.
“The 111 communities that remained, spent more than $18 million on trees – planting them, as well as caring for them. If nothing else, that´s phenomenal because it´s roughly the same dollar amount that 117 communities had invested in 2008,” McDonnell said. The KFS program is part of a national Tree City USA effort, sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation.
McDonnell said the state´s enrolled communities are home to some 89 percent of the Kansas population. Yet, 77 percent of those Tree City towns have a population of 10,000 or less. “That´s amazing, too. It says something about Kansans in general – but especially about the Kansans who live in small towns that have a small budget and a limited pool of possible volunteers,” he added.
As part of last year´s participation, 1,600 Kansas volunteers helped 633 local tree board members provide almost 22,000 hours of no-cost labor. They planted more than 13,000 trees. They pruned another 67,200. They also removed close to 16,000 dead and dying trees. Sixteen of their hometowns earned a Tree City USA Growth Award. Three again qualified to post a Tree City USA sign at the edge of town – including tornado-torn Greensburg, Kan. And, because four towns were among the first 11 enrollees when the state´s foresters started the program in 1976, Clay Center, Dodge City, Junction City and Newton completed their 34th year in the Kansas version of Tree City USA.