The city of Union has again earned the Tree City USA distinction.
The Tree City USA program is sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation in cooperation with the National Association of State Foresters, USDA Forest Service and the Missouri Department of Conservation.
It provides direction, technical assistance, public attention and national recognition for urban community forestry programs.
The city has met the four standards to become a Tree City USA community: having a tree board or department, a tree care ordinance, a comprehensive community forestry program with an annual budget of at least $2 per capita, and an Arbor Day observance and proclamation.
“This is one of the coolest projects I’ve been able to work on,” said Assistant City Administrator James Schmieder, adding that the designation is just one of several things the city’s Urban Forestry Council has been working on to improve the community.
In November 2016, the group planted 20 trees at Veterans Memorial Park with help from the Union High School Key Club.
That project was completed through Forest ReLeaf of Missouri’s Project CommuniTree. The program provides free trees to community groups for planting projects. Trees are grown at CommuniTree Gardens nursery, potted and cared for until they are ready to be given away each spring and fall.
This spring, with the help of Craig’s Tree Service, two hazardous trees were removed from a natural area at Veterans Memorial Park. The trees had died and their location on the nearby walking trail made them hazardous.
In 2015, the group worked to remove invasive bush honeysuckle from the same area of the park.
Schmieder said the group, which was reactivated last year, is planning its next planting project.
Members include Rich and Earlaine Sandoval; Craig Small, certified arborist; Bruce Templer; Matt Herring with the University of Missouri Extension; Jim Albrecht, board of aldermen liaison; and Linda Metcalf. Schmieder is the city representative. Mark Gruber with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) was critical in getting the group off the ground, Schmieder said.
“Without volunteers none of this happens,” he said, adding that volunteers always step up. “If we didn’t have volunteers working on these projects, the city would look completely different. The parks would look a lot different.”
With the destructive emerald ash borer starting to show up in Missouri, Schmieder said the Urban Forestry Council will focus on creating a tree inventory for the city, as well as a public outreach program on how to identify trees and what to look for.
According to the MDC, the emerald ash borer is an exotic Asian beetle accidentally introduced into North America before 2002. Its larvae feed on and kill ash trees, creating regulatory headaches and costing millions in control measures.
Schmieder said people will need to determine if they have an ash tree and if they want to treat it or remove it.
Treating trees after they become infected is more expensive because different precautions have to be taken. The beetles hollow out the tree at about the 5-foot mark, making removal more dangerous for crews.
“If there is an ash tree that is diseased, already dying or scraggly, it might be a candidate for removal,” Schmieder said, adding that insecticide to kill the borer also is expensive.
Once a tree is infected, it becomes weakened at the midpoint of the trunk and it can’t be removed normally.
“We’re not trying to steer people in any direction. It’s a matter of identifying the trees and not giving the pests a way to nest and skip to the next season,” Schmieder said, adding that if their habitat is taken away, it stops their spreading.
“They will kill off every ash tree we have if we don’t prepare or act,” he said.