Oregon to seek Tree City USA designation for 2024

A worker with the company performing a tree inventory for the city of Oregon checks out one of the trees in the terrace on N. Sixth Street on July 6, 2022.

OREGON — Oregon officials took another step toward preserving, protecting and enhancing the city’s urban forest.

On March 28, Oregon City Council members directed City Administrator Darin DeHaan to move forward with putting together an application for Tree City USA designation.

“If we decide to do this, then annually I will apply for this and then we would get this designation each year,” DeHaan said. “This would also allow us to apply for certain grants and continue our tree program in the city with support from [Morton] Arboretum.”

Tree City USA was created by the Arbor Day Foundation in 1976, according to ArborDay.org. A community can receive annual Tree City recognition by meeting four overarching standards:

1. Maintain a tree board or department.

City commissioners unanimously voted to create the Oregon Tree Board on June 28, 2022.

2. Having a community tree ordinance.

A tree preservation regulations ordinance was unanimously approved by commissioners on Nov. 8, 2022.

3. Spending at least $2 per resident on urban forestry.

Oregon has a population of 3,604 according to the 2020 census, which means the city must spend at least $7,208 on tree removals, pruning and plantings annually.

4. Celebrating Arbor Day.

Illinois observes Arbor Day on the last Friday in April.

DeHaan noted that the city won’t have Tree City USA designation in 2023 because of deadlines, but he will get together the application to submit in September for status in 2024.

“The Tree Board says this is a good way to give us a good green designation as well as allow us to apply for additional green-related items,” Commissioner Tim Krug said. “So it’s good for everybody.”

The work done thus far already has benefited the city, such as the $4,700 grant they received to conduct a tree inventory, DeHaan said. The last time the city did a tree inventory was in 1998, he said.

One of the next steps is to sell the idea of terrace trees being a good thing to the community, DeHaan said. That includes educating the public on the benefits of terrace trees, he said.

“The Tree Board is willing to kind of help with that educational process, so I’ll start working with them,” DeHaan said. “Our previous streets superintendent just sent out a letter and we didn’t get any response. I think it’s going to take some education and some support from the Tree Board to kind of get the community on board.”

Many of the terrace trees in the city were removed during an Emerald Ash Borer outbreak, and they now want to replace them, he said.

“Part of the community is the fact that you drive down tree-lined streets,” Mayor Ken Williams said. “The trees line the streets in the neighborhood and so on. That’s a real quality, and so we want to keep it.”

Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner reports on Lee, Ogle and Whiteside counties for Shaw Media out of the Dixon office. Previously, she worked for the Record-Eagle in Traverse City, Michigan, and the Daily Jefferson County Union in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.