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    Officials embrace trees in title bid

    Seminole forms a board to oversee planting trees in an effort to garner the Tree City USA designation.


    © St. Petersburg Times, published May 16, 2001

    SEMINOLE -- Efforts to keep Seminole a tree-friendly community have been planted.

    The city has formed a tree advisory committee in the hopes of qualifying for a Tree City USA designation.

    The five-member board will develop a tree management program for planting, maintaining and removing trees from streets, parks and other public places. The committee also will participate in city beautification projects and coordinate tree planting and educational programs.

    The city's application for a Tree City USA designation is a logical step for Seminole, said Mitch Bobowski, Seminole's general services director. In 1999, the city adopted a streetscape master plan to beautify all of its medians. Last year, it renovated Blossom Lake Park and Tennis Club Park.

    Now the city is refurbishing Seminole City Park. Planting new trees is part of the massive overhaul of the 10-acre park.

    City officials hope others will follow in their steps.

    "This is an excellent opportunity to encourage not only our residents but our business community as well to learn about the importance of trees," Bobowski said.

    To earn the Tree City USA designation, Seminole has to assemble a tree board or department, develop a tree ordinance and declare an Arbor Day celebration. The city also has to guarantee that $2 per resident is spent every year on a community forestry program.

    The City Council appointed as board members Beverly Isaacs, Arthur Nunes, Janet Long, Martha Mohn and Frances Sutherland. The committee will begin meeting quarterly next month.

    Sutherland said participation in the tree program is the right move for the city. "I think it's a good idea to keep track of the trees, especially with the heat we have in the summertime," she said.

    Arbor Day is a national observance that encourages tree planting and tree care. Founded by J. Sterling Morton in Nebraska in 1872, Arbor Day is celebrated on a date determined by the best tree planting time in each area.

    Tree City USA is sponsored by the National Arbor Day Foundation in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters.

    The non-profit foundation began the Tree City USA designations in 1976 to encourage cities to protect trees. The program is designed to provide direction, technical assistance, public attention and national recognition for urban and community forestry programs in thousands of towns and cities across America.

    If Seminole is awarded the designation, it will join 119 cities in Florida and 3,000 communities in the United States that belong to the program. Safety Harbor, Clearwater, Dunedin, Largo and a number of other Pinellas County cities have been awarded the designation, according to the National Arbor Day Foundation Web site.

    Between 150 and 200 cities are awarded Tree City designations every year, said Tina Schweitzer, Tree City USA coordinator. "It's a growing program," Schweitzer said. "It's never too late to start a good urban forestry program."

    And there are more reasons for planting and maintaining trees than aesthetic and health benefits, Bobowski said. A good tree program can affect the wallet, too, he said.

    "That one tree properly placed provides a shade benefit equivalent to a 4-ton air conditioner," Bobowski said.

    - Staff writer Maureen Byrne can be reached at 445-4163.

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