By NIKKI YOUNK
NORWAY - The city of Norway's ongoing commitment to caring for and managing public trees has earned it a Tree City USA designation by the Arbor Day Foundation.
There are 120 municipalities statewide, including three others in the Upper Peninsula, that have achieved Tree City USA status. Marquette has held the honor for 33 years, Escanaba for 14 years, and Gladstone for five years.
This is the first year for Norway, but City Manager Ray Anderson said that the city's tree care initiatives actually began about eight years ago. At that time, Norway had started to lose many of its trees to oak wilt, gypsy moth infestations, and drought, he added.
With the help of funds from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Curtis J. Brackett Memorial Fund, and the Plum Creek Foundation, the city was able to develop an urban forestry program. Projects included hiring a forester, building a nursery, and purchasing a tree spade and related equipment.
Anderson submitted the application for a Tree City USA designation last fall. He was recently notified that the application had been accepted.
Being named a Tree City USA will allow Norway to display "Tree City USA" signs and use the designation to apply for certain grants.
Anderson saw the honor as a recognition of hard work.
"It positively reflects what we're doing in our parks and recreation programs in general," he said.
Norway will continue to manage its public trees through the boulevard tree planting program, cutting down the weak box elder trees at Strawberry Lake and planting new trees, and educating residents about properly pruning their trees.
Anderson also wanted to educate Norway's youngest residents about tree care. That's why he joined Norway-Vulcan Area Schools K-6 principal Brad Grayvold and Ann Hruska from the Dickinson Conservation District for a special Arbor Day presentation Friday at Norway Elementary School.
"We want to bring awareness to kids to let them know we support a healthy forest," said Anderson.
All Norway elementary and middle school students will receive tree starts from the conservation district next week.
To become a Tree City USA, a community must meet the four core standards of maintaining a tree board or department, having a tree ordinance in place, spending at least $2 per capita on urban forestry programs, and celebrating Arbor Day.
For more information, see www.arborday.org.
Nikki Younk's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.