In the continuing series of articles on local government, I am discussing the important role the numerous boards and commissions play within the community, and the vital contribution the volunteers who serve their community as members of the boards make by providing input and direction impacting all of our futures. In this article, I want to talk about the Tree Board.
Sidney’s Tree Board was created by City Council in April 1989. The members are charged with developing, annually updating and administering a written plan for the care, preservation, pruning, planting, replanting, removal, or disposition of trees and shrubs in parks, along streets, and in other public areas.
The Tree Board’s completed plan is presented to the City Council annually. Upon acceptance and approval by Council, the document constitutes the official Comprehensive City Tree Plan. Upon request, the board makes recommendations to City Council on special questions within the scope of its work.
The five members of the Tree Board serve staggered, three-year terms. They are appointed by council. There are no term limits.
The Tree Board is chaired by Ann Asher. She has served as a member of the board since 2007.
Michael Jannides serves as vice-chair of the Tree Board. Michael has served as a member of the board since 2011.
Other members include Sarah Ann Sharp, who was appointed in 2015, Ross Moore III, who was appointed in 2016, and Brandi Thompson who was appointed in 2017.
The city has two arborists certified by the International Society of Arboriculture. They include Brian Green and Joyce Reier, who work closely with the Tree Board.
Tree Board members are encouraged to enroll in courses offered through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Forestry’s Tree Commission Academy. Ann Sharp is currently enrolled, and is set to graduate in the spring.
The meetings of the Tree Board are held on the third Thursday of the months of February, April, June, August, October, and on the second Thursday of the month of December in the City Council Chambers. The meetings begin at 4:00 p.m. and as with all meetings of city boards and commissions, the public is invited to attend.
The board recently held their first-ever tree sale. Based on similar inaugural events held in other communities – some much larger than Sidney, the board was told to expect tree sales to total 25 -50 trees. The “experts” were astounded to learn that 300 trees were sold in Sidney!
Of the six species offered, the red oak was the most popular, with 97 ordered. Next in popularity was the redbud, with 61 ordered, the Norway Spruce, with 48 ordered, the Tulip Poplar, with 47 ordered, the Swamp White Oak, with 31 ordered, and the American Beech, with 15 ordered.
Once the board members have analyzed the logistics of the sale, they will decide whether to conduct a sale again next year. It is likely that a similar number of species would again be offered, although the species would likely be different.
The Tree Board recently completed a list of approved street trees. Street trees are those planted in the tree lawn (the area along the street between the curb and the sidewalk). Street trees are often planted by residents, but are maintained by the city. Frequently residents plant trees in the tree lawn that are problematic because when full grown, they are much too large for the space in which they were planted.
The approved street tree list will be published shortly. Once it is published, residents will be able to select trees from the 83 species on that list if they choose to plant trees alongside their property in the tree lawn.
There is a permit process for planting or caring for street trees. The application form is online. A hard copy can also be picked up at the Service Center. There is no charge for the permit, but a fine could be levied if the permit is not filed before work is undertaken.
High on the Tree Board’s list of priorities is a street tree inventory. They inventory would map the location, size and health of all trees along the public right of way. Such an inventory would be useful for a host of reasons. It would help to identify possible planting locations for new trees, and map the areas by priority. In addition, it would be helpful in fighting diseases and ultimately removing dead or dying trees.
The Tree Board has been especially helpful in the city’s efforts to combat the effects of the Emerald Ash Borer and the Asian Long-horned Beetle. The Emerald Ash Borer has been especially destructive. The city has removed more than 1,000 ash trees along the street and from city parks. Tawawa Park was especially hard hit.
We are hopeful that the Asian Long-horned Beetle will not be as devastating to our forests. Native to China, Japan and Korea, this particular pest was also transported to this country as a stowaway in shipping containers. In Ohio, the beetle has been found in Clermont County and East Fork State Park.
If Ohioans do not transport wood products (including firewood) from the infected area, we should be able to contain and eradicate this particular pest. When compared to the Emerald Ash Borer, the Asian Long-horned Beetle could be described as “lazy”. Unfortunately, it attacks and kills a huge number of tree species including maple, birch, hackberry, sycamore, poplar, willow and chestnut.
Sidney has been designated at Tree City since 1989. A nationwide movement that provides the framework necessary for communities to manage and expand their public trees, the program is sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation. More than 3,400 communities across the country have earned Tree City USA designation.
The Tree Board cannot do their work alone. It takes all of us working hand in hand with them to protect and enhance Sidney’s urban forest. I would encourage you to do your part. If you would like more information, feel free to contact any member of the Tree Board, our certified arborists, or your councilmember.
In my next article, I’ll talk about the Compensation Commission. The Compensation Commission is provided for within the City Charter and meets biennially to set the annual salary of the mayor and members of council.
The writer is the mayor of Sidney.