Port Angeles creates tree board for Tree City USA status

PORT ANGELES — A group of tree enthusiasts has formed an advisory board that will assist the city of Port Angeles in all things forestry.

The Port Angeles Tree Board was born Tuesday from a grassroots effort to help the city regain its membership in the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree City USA program.

The seven-member board will help the city plan and celebrate Arbor Day, assist in creating a long-range forest plan, advise the City Council on urban forestry matters, conduct educational campaigns and serve as a liaison to other civic organizations.

Port Townsend and Sequim are among the 108 members of the Tree City USA program.

Port Angeles lost its designation as a Tree City after associate planner and forester Scott Johns retired in 2016.

One of the advantages of being a Tree City is the ability to secure grants, Peninsula Urban Forestry President John Bornsworth said in a Tuesday meeting at the Port Angeles library.

“If there’s an organization that’s giving away money for urban forestry, or green space development, or building a trail somewhere — or doing anything that’s related to green in a city — being a Tree City USA opens up your opportunity for grants,” Bornsworth said.

The Tree City requirements are to have a tree board or staff forester in place, a tree care ordinance, a community forestry program with a budget of at least $2 per capita and an Arbor Day proclamation and celebration.

The Port Angeles City Council designated Friday as Arbor Day on April 17.

The city has an existing tree ordinance and meets the forestry program requirement because it owns an electric utility with a tree management program.

“The biggest thing at this point is just having a designated city forester and/or a tree advisory group to meet their standard,” Bornsworth said.

Near the end of the meeting, seven volunteers stepped up to serve on the first iteration of the Port Angeles Tree Board. They are:

• Paige Belfry, who works with an arborist and expressed an affinity for trees.

• Elizabeth Dunne, an environmental law attorney whose interest in urban forestry was piqued by the planned removal of a 105-foot sequoia tree at Lions Park.

• Devon Gray, who derives spiritual energy from trees and considers the forest to be her “cathedral.”

• Christeal Milburn, a naturalist who specializes in education, outreach and volunteer programs.

• Brian Phillips, who works at the Port Angeles library and manages its surrounding landscape.

• Diana Somerville, a science writer who has a keen interest in environmental issues.

• Justin Vendettuoli, a conservation biologist and wetlands specialist who values the ecosystem services that trees provide.

Port Angeles was a Tree City for three years before it’s membership lapsed in 2017, city Community and Economic Development Director Nathan West said at the meeting.

“I’m accountable for the fact that we didn’t get the application in, in time last year, but we are working to regroup and get that put in,” West said.

With a tree board in place, the city can reapply for Tree City USA designation in September if it shows that it held an Arbor Day celebration.

Cities can observe Arbor Day on any day of the year, said Paul Forrest, who organized the meeting and will advise the tree board.

“In this part of the world, most trees are planted in the fall,” Forrest said.

West said the only reason the City Council proclaimed Friday as Arbor Day was in recognition of national Arbor Day on April 27.

“There’s no reason why we couldn’t change that,” West said.

City Council members Cherie Kidd and Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin were among the 25 attendees.

Bornsworth, who will serve as a technical advisor to the tree board, gave an overview of urban forestry in a 20-minute slide show.

His presentation focused on the economic, physical, human and social benefits of urban forests.

Economic benefits include increased property values, business growth, lower energy costs and stormwater mitigation, Bornsworth said.

Physical benefits include erosion control, increased biodiversity, wildlife habitat, air and water quality improvement and shade for urban heat islands, Bornsworth said.

Human benefits of urban forests are a “little abstract” and include improved physical and mental health and a reduction in stress and cardiac disease, Bornsworth said.

Social benefits include increased community and civic pride, scenic values and a reduction in crime, he said.

“When we have a nice place, people keep it nice,” Bornsworth said, referring to the “broken window theory.”

“If you have a place that’s trashy and doesn’t look good, people don’t care.”

The Port Angeles Tree Board will hold monthly public meetings on dates to be determined.

Information will be at https://www.cityofpa.us/.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].

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