City looking for tree board volunteers as McGregor debates becoming Tree City

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If McGregor forms a tree board, one thing they might do is diversify the city’s tree population, which has a lot of maples. (NIT file folder)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

With their vibrant hues, the maple trees in McGregor’s Triangle Park are one of the city’s most iconic fall sites. They’re the backdrop to the arts and crafts festivals and relaxing strolls downtown. With the help of a tree board, these and other McGregor trees could receive more attention.

The city of McGregor is considering pursuing a Tree City designation through the Arbor Day Foundation. In order to become a Tree City, McGregor would have to develop a tree board and a community tree ordinance, which would authorize the board to implement yearly forestry plans for planting, maintaining and removing city trees. In addition, funds would have to be allocated annually toward tree maintenance. City Administrator Lynette Sander said McGregor already has a tree management budget that serves that purpose. Finally, the city would have to observe Arbor Day each year and issue a proclamation.

However, before further pursuing the designation, the city wants to determine if there is sufficient interest among community members to serve on a tree board.

“Communities like having a tree board because they can expand the city’s capacity and are actively engaged in urban forestry,” said Emily Swihart, a field coordinator for the east-central Iowa region for Trees Forever, an Iowa-based non-profit that works with communities on education and tree planting projects. “They’re invested in and advocate for trees. They can educate and identify areas of need, then actually take action.”

Swihart said she, through Trees Forever, has offered to help a tree board, if one is developed. For example, she could host workshops, provide educational material and help the board obtain funding for projects. From what she’s learned about McGregor so far, Swihart said she’d help the city with a combination of educating residents and locating funding for plantings, especially to diversify the community’s trees.

“McGregor has a lot of maples,” she said, noting that, although beautiful, they’re susceptible to a beetle, called the Asian Longhorned Beetle.

Swihart said she’s seen super-active tree boards, while others operate as needed, with the board evolving as the city’s tree needs change. An extensive knowledge of trees is not necessary, she noted, as there are plenty of opportunities to learn.

“You just have to love trees and care about the community,” she said.

Investing in urban forestry benefits communities in a variety of ways, Swihart said, particularly financially. For every dollar invested, the city would see $4 in return, she noted. That comes in the form of energy savings, as trees provide shade in the summer and wind breaks in the winter. They also help with stormwater issues and increase property values.

Swihart said well-maintained trees make communities more visually-appealing as well.

“People are more comfortable walking along tree-lined streets,” she said. “There are also social ties that can be built, with more people out and about, walking around.”

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