Insect infestation pushed Vandalia, other cities into Tree City program

Students from the Vandalia-Butler School District help with Arbor Day celebrations in 2016. CONTRIBUTED. Students from the Vandalia-Butler School District help in the Arbor Day celebrations in 2016. CONTRIBUTED.
Students from the Vandalia-Butler School District help with Arbor Day celebrations in 2016. CONTRIBUTED. Students from the Vandalia-Butler School District help in the Arbor Day celebrations in 2016. CONTRIBUTED.

An invasive insect that devastated local tree populations actually helped spur Vandalia and many other Miami Valley cities to become part of the Tree City USA program.

The city lost 150 trees just at Helke Park on Randler Avenue because of the emerald ash borer. There were 300 city-owned trees total lost.

The city began to replant trees to make Vandalia green again. As a result, the city turned in its application to become part of the National Organization called Tree City USA, as many other cities in the area have.

“That is why our designation as a Tree City USA means so much to us. Because the job of protecting and preserving our tree population is up to all of us,” said Vandalia Mayor Arlene Setzer.

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The Tree City USA program began greening up many cities and towns across America since 1976. A nationwide movement, that provides the necessary framework for communities to expand their public trees, according to The Arbor Day Foundation's website.

To become part of this organization, cities must meet four core standards of sound urban forestry management: maintaining a tree board or department, having a community tree ordinance, spending at least $2 per capita on urban forestry and celebrating Arbor Day.

There are more than 3,400 communities in Tree City USA, which is part of the Arbor Day Foundation. The Arbor Day Foundation is a nonprofit conservation and education organization as said on their website. They have a commitment to support programs to make the world greener and healthier.

Ohio is the top state in the country with 243 Tree Cities. The Miami Valley has 22 cities, alone, that are part of Tree City USA — including Vandalia, Dayton, Kettering, Centerville, Oakwood, and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

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“Trees are a vital component of the infrastructure of our city, and they also provide environmental and economic benefits,” said Director of Parks and Recreation Steve Clark. “They promote healthier communities by filtering the air we breathe by removing dust and other particles; moderate climate, conserve, water and provide vital habitat for wildlife; reduce energy use and increase property values.”

Vandalia has made a strong commitment to making America greener, a spokesman said.

“We’ve taken a twofold approach to replacing them. Most of the trees we lost were in a densely wooded area, and we decided to convert the space into a disc golf course,” said Communications Manager Rich Hopkins. “So we didn’t do anything to replace the ones we lost in the dense wooded area, choosing instead to make the area a little more accessible.”

“We have, though, replaced about 20 trees in other areas of the park.”

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This year the city will be holding its fourth annual City of Vandalia Arbor Day celebration on Friday at Helke Park right next to Helke Elementary School at 1 p.m.

The children from Helke Elementary will help plant a tree by throwing in the dirt. The mayor will read a proclamation to all who attend.

“The City of Vandalia has always felt very strongly that it is important to preserve and protect our tree population. Trees improve our property value, they provide shade and beauty at our city parks, and I’m told they make some of the holes at our Cassel Hills Golf Course a little more challenging,” Setzer said.

“This is a long-term project that we’ll need to continue for many years,” Hopkins said.

All 22 Miami Valley cities are celebrating Arbor Day in some way. Visit their city websites for more information.

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Visit the Arbor Day Foundation's website for more information on how to get involved.