Cullman celebrates 34 years as Tree City USA

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Front Row: Lily Kate Powell, Charles Chandler, Mayor Jacobs, Mary Claire Smith, Caroline Sanders, Jason Downs, and Jordyn Black. Back Row: Tree Commission members Peggy Harris, Jan Barnett, Amy Leonard, Barry Slatton, and Michael Sullins (not present: Nona Moon) (Photo courtesy of The City of Cullman)

CULLMAN, Ala. – “This is a fun one!” Those were Cullman Mayor Woody Jacobs’ words as he prepared to open the 2022 Tree City Dedication/Arbor Week Celebration ceremony held Thursday, February 24, inside the City Hall auditorium.

ARBOR WEEK CELEBRATION

The ceremony began with Mayor Jacobs proclaiming the week of February 20-26, 2022, Arbor Week, in the City of Cullman. Arbor Day began in 1872 when J. Sterling Morton proposed to the Nebraska Board of Agriculture that a special day be set aside for the planting of trees. This holiday, called Arbor Day, was first observed with the planting of more than a million trees in Nebraska, and is now observed throughout the nation and the world. In Alabama, Arbor Week is recognized each year during the last full week of February.

Upon receiving the official Arbor Week proclamation from Mayor Jacobs, Charles Chandler, who assumed the role of City Arborist in October 2021 following the retirement of Darrell Johns, thanked Mayor Jacobs and introduced himself, saying: “I am a registered forester, but I’m retired from the timber industry. I have some things to learn still about being an arborist, but I’m enjoying my new position so far.”

In conjunction with Arbor Week each year, local fifth graders participate in the Arbor Day Poster Contest. This year’s poster contest them was “Trees are Terrific … and Energy Wise!”  Posters are judged at each school and winning posters from all schools are then judged at the state level. In addition, the City of Cullman awards second place poster winners $15 and first place poster winners $25. This year, three schools participated in the contest: Cullman Christian School, Sacred Heart Catholic School and St. Paul’s Lutheran School.

“This is the part I look forward to,” said Mayor Jacobs. “All of the other stuff is important, but to have the kids participating in this poster contest and learning about the value of trees in our community is what it’s all about. We know with everything that’s going on this year, and the past couple of years, it’s a bit tougher on teachers so we appreciate all of the schools that participated this year.”

Second place winners in the poster contest were Maylie Smothers of Cullman Christian School, Caroline Sanders of Sacred Heart Catholic School, and Sipsey Drake of St. Paul’s Lutheran School. Maylie and Sipsey were unable to attend, but Caroline received her certificate and $15 check from Mayor Jacobs.

First place winners in the poster contest were Lily Kate Powell of Cullman Christian School, Jordyn Black of Sacred Heart Catholic School and Libby James of St. Paul’s Lutheran School.

“I am so thankful to these kids for participating in the poster contest,” said Mayor Jacobs. “Trees are very important, and this is a great way to teach that lesson. The City of Cullman tries to be a great steward of our trees. We plant many more than we cut down.”

In addition to the Arbor Day Poster Contest, the annual Tree Sale was held on Saturday, February 19, at the North Alabama Agriplex, hosted by the Cullman County Natural Resources Planning Committee. Ten tree and six shrub species were sold, with all proceeds benefiting the Cullman County Forestry Awareness Week Now (FAWN) school program for 6th graders and FFA Forestry judging contest.

TREE-CITY DEDICATION

Cullman was recently named a Tree City USA for the 34th consecutive year by the Arbor Day Foundation! Cullman achieved Tree City USA recognition by meeting the program’s four requirements: Having a tree commission, having a tree care ordinance, having an annual community forestry budget of at least $2 per capita and having an annual Arbor Day observance and proclamation.

Mary Claire Smith with the Alabama Forestry Service (Jefferson County) will be joining Forestry Specialist Jason Downs in the Cullman office on March 1, 2022 following the retirement of long-time Forestry Specialist Albert Mayo.

“I am excited about going to work here in Cullman and am proud to present these Tree City materials today,” said Ms. Smith. “In Jefferson County, I’m not used to seeing numbers this large, so 34 years is a great accomplishment!”

Mary Claire Smith with the Alabama Forestry Service presented the Tree City “34 Years” stickers and the new Tree City flag to Mayor Jacobs.

“I know we’re not the oldest Tree City in the state, but we’ve maintained Tree City status a really long time,” said Mayor Jacobs.

Dan Lambe, president of the Arbor Day Foundation, sent the following statement: “Tree City USA communities benefit from the positive effects that an urban tree canopy has year after year. The trees being planted and cared for by Cullman ensure that generations to come will enjoy a better quality of life. Additionally, participation in this program helps cultivate a sense of stewardship and pride for the trees the community plants and cares for.”

This year’s ceremony featured a lot of new faces, as several of those who have played a vital role in Cullman’s 34-year Tree City history were not present. In addition to the retirements of Darrell Johns and Albert Mayo mentioned above, long-time Cullman County Extension Coordinator Tony Glover recently retired. That position is now held by Dr. Kira Sims.

Also, long-time Tree Commission member and chairman Everett Wier passed away recently. Mr. Wier was not only an active member and leader of the Tree Commission, but was also a member of the Master Gardeners and the Arbor Day Foundation. At the Tree Commission meeting held just prior to the ceremony, a moment of silence was held in honor of Mr. Wier and his contributions to the commission. Commission member Michael Sullins was elected to fulfill the role of chairman.

“A lot of folks over the years have helped us get to this point,” said Mayor Jacobs. “And we have good people here now who will continue to move us forward.”

The new Tree City USA flag was raised in front of City Hall by City Arborist Charles Chandler and Forestry Specialist Jason Downs of the Alabama Forestry Service.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Planting trees in an urban space comes with a myriad of benefits past the recognition of this program—Urban tree plantings:

– Help reduce energy consumption by up to 25%, which will reduce general energy costs and help with the overall cooling of the city as well.

– Benefit the community, as properly placed trees increase property values from 7-20%.

– Positively affect the local ecosystem by helping to clean water and create animal habitats to encourage biodiversity.

Resources:

  • Alabama Forestry Commission: https://forestry.alabama.gov/ or contact the Cullman office at 256-734-0573. The Cullman office is located at 1527 Sportsman Lake Road NW.
  • More information on forestry and natural resources can also be found at https://www.aces.edu/ or by calling the Cullman County Extension Office at 256-737-9386. The Extension Office is located at 402 Arnold Street NE, Suite G-1.
  • To find out more about the Cullman City Arborist or Tree Commission, contact the Mayor’s Office at 256-775-7102 or lwest@cullmanal.gov.