New Year’s resolution leads to establishing urban forestry program

By Ron Vidika
Vermilion, OH (January 9, 2011)- John Hill said his New Year’s resolution is to establish an urban forestry program within the confines of Vermilion and make his city the 250th municipality in Ohio to become a Tree City USA.

“Our realistic, long-term goal is to establish city ordinances in support of an urban forestry program. It would be the opposite of a wild forest in the woods. Basically, it would be a population of trees within the confines of the municipality that would provide shelter and positive aesthetics,” said Hill, 64, a native of Richland, Mich.
Hill and his wife, the former Carolyn Koachway, of Vermilion, moved from Michigan to Vermilion in November, 2005. Hill’s love of nature and respect for trees has roots back to his childhood. “I have a degree in biology and an affinity for nature. I started planting trees when I was a youngster,” said Hill, who is retired from agricultural sales. In his hometown of Richland, Hill said it took a combined effort of 600 residents in the late 1980s to plant more than 250 trees.
“We went about planting trees in Richland. We planted everything from sugar maples, to pear trees, oak, pines, ginkos, green ash, red bud, and sweet gum trees,” Hill said. “Every community has lots of trees within their confines. The benefit is they give people a sense of comfort and people are more apt to come to a community, shop and spend more money and linger longer in a community with trees,” Hill said.
“It’s also been shown that trees can protect asphalt and pavement from the rays of the sun and greatly extend the longevity of the pavement, provide a healthier and more beautiful environment and prevent erosion and flash flooding,” he said. “Trees are economically beneficial and enhance the value of property and the desirability of neighborhoods and help to prevent blighted areas.”
Hill said one of the prime movers regarding the promotion and planting of trees within Vermilion for the past several years has been Dana Corogin, the Vermilion Parks and Recreation supervisor. “Dana and I will get together next week and review a proposed ordinance and give it to (Vermilion) Mayor Eileen Bulan so she has a chance to look at it. Then, Dana and I can meet with council,” Hill said.
What is still needed, he said, is a complete inventory of the trees within Vermilion. Too many of one species of a tree can be disastrous if a blight targets them. Diversity, said Hill, is a better way. “It will definitely happen in Vermilion,” said Corogin, of an urban forestry program for the city. “The mayor and the city service director are both for it.” As a member of a separate project, a volunteer beautification program called “Vermilion in Bloom,” Corogin said the group has planted 200 trees in 30 different varieties during the past six years.
“The city, through the park system, is becoming more and more interested in reforesting Vermilion,” Corogin said. Last year, Hill and Corogin attended a Tree Commission Academy that educates municipalities about the importance of urban forestry. The series of classes resulted in 50 hours of class work and field assignments. Primary instructor for the Tree Commission Academy was Alan Siewart, urban forester with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry in Middlefield.
“Jim is one of those people who saw the importance of the urban forest in his previous home in Michigan,” Siewart said. “Here, Jim participated in the Tree Commission Academy, an award-winning, 50-hour training class developed by myself and the other urban foresters of the Ohio Division of Forestry. It prepares committed individuals like Jim to manage their communities’ urban forest in a productive and cost-effective manner. I think Vermilion is very lucky to have a person like Jim,” Siewart said.
Urban forestry programs have existed since the early 1800s, Siewart said. Many of the current tree ordinances started in the 1950s and 1960s. “In the 1980s and 1990s, cities realized the impact of the urban forest as they began to lose it. In the decades that followed, the trees declined and died, and only then did the residents realize what a huge, positive impact the urban forest gave them,” Siewart said.
“In the past decade, scientists and researchers have been able to show positive benefits from the urban forest in increased property values, reduced crime rates, reduced domestic violence rates, reduced air conditioning and heating costs, reduced storm water runoff and storm water costs and increased water quality,” Siewart said.
Tree City USA is a program of the Arbor Day Foundation in Nebraska, Siewart said. “The Arbor Day Foundation partners with the Association of State Foresters and the U.S. Forest Service to provide the program. Tree City started in 1976 as a Bicentennial program. Currently, there are about 249 Tree Cities in Ohio. Ohio has led the nation in the number of tree cities since the early 1980s,” Siewart said. There are four qualifications for a municipality to become a Tree City USA, he said.
First, there must be a city tree ordinance on the books. Secondly, there must be in place a city forester or a tree commission. Thirdly, a tree budget must be established at an annual cost of $2 per resident. Lastly, there must be an Arbor Day proclamation made and an Arbor Day observance held. “Then, once they complete the (Tree City USA) requirements, they complete the application and send it to me for approval,” Siewart said.
Once the Tree City USA designation becomes a reality for Vermilion, Hill said his shopping list of trees includes maple, sugar and silver maples, oak, ash, magnolia, red bud and cypress. “We would buy the trees from a reputable nursery that would have young saplings,” Hill said. Despite his commitment to make Vermilion a Tree City USA, Hill will have other thoughts on his mind from April to June. “My passion is hiking,” Hill said. “I’ll be hiking a thousand miles on the Appalachian Trail, from northern Maine to northern Georgia.”
Related Resource:
The Morning Journal- New Year’s resolution leads to establishing urban forestry program in Vermilion