Tree City USA

Tree City USA is a national recognition program under the auspices of The Arbor Day Foundation and the National Association of State Foresters and provides the framework for community forestry management of public trees in cities and towns across America. Tree City is a designation we can be proud of, particularly since Camden has achieved and continuously maintained this status for the past 31 years. 

Communities achieve Tree City USA status and must annually recertify it by meeting four core standards or criteria of sound urban forestry management. The standards were established to ensure that every qualifying community would have a viable tree management plan and program and it’s important to note that they were also designed so that no community would be excluded because of size. 

The first criteria is maintaining a tree board or department, we have both. The Parks & Trees Commission has been in existence at least 26 years and during that time, has provided invaluable assistance regarding trees and beautification. The City’s Public Works Department has been the department responsible for working with the Parks & Trees Commission as well as to coordinate and conduct tree maintenance activities. 

The second criteria is to maintain an active public tree care ordinance. This past summer, City Council adopted a totally revised and expanded tree policy. This new ordinance facilitates for comprehensive public tree planting, maintenance and management of the resource and designates authoritative responsibilities to city staff (that would be me) to implement. Over the past three years, tree planting by the city has remained steady at 60 trees in 2011, 70 trees in 2012 and 65 trees in 2013. Non-utility line pruning has varied from 55 trees in 2011 to 125 trees in 2011 and 152 trees in 2013, but we still have a long way to go in this category! Tree removals have also remained somewhat constant at 86 in 2011, 65 in 2012 and 55 in 2013. 

The third criteria is to maintain a community forestry program with an annual budget of at least $2 per person. Many communities often shy away from the program at first when reading this, but in my experience when working for the SC Forestry Commission providing assistance to communities, this really is quite do-able. Camden has averaged $60.00 per capita. This includes expenditures for tree planting, watering, removing, pruning, Arbor Day and city staff. However, the largest public investment falls under utility line pruning. 

The fourth criteria is to observe and proclaim Arbor Day. Camden has done this faithfully with the assistance of the Parks & Trees Commission and The Camden Tree Foundation. Each year for the past 26, a tree has been planted in commemoration of this American holiday started over 135 years ago in Nebraska. 

Tree City USA communities have demonstrated a commitment to caring for and managing their public trees. Together the more than 3,400 Tree City USA communities serve as home to more than 135 million Americans. Here in South Carolina, Camden is one of only 41 communities out of over 250 incorporated municipalities to earn this recognition status!