Philadelphia is the only city in the nation to have been designated as a ‘Tree City’ for 41 years straight.
The Arbor Day Foundation recognized Philadelphia as a Tree City USA for the 41st consecutive year during an Arbor Day celebration last Friday at Wissinoming Park in the Northeast.
Philadelphia is the only city in the nation that has received Tree City designation every year since the founding of the tree advocacy program in 1976. According to Lori Hayes, the director of urban forestry for the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, the foundation set strict qualifications for Tree City designation. Cities must host an Arbor Day celebration, conduct tree-advocacy programs for children, must adopt a mayoral proclamation in support of trees and must spend at least $2 per capita on a community forestry program.
The city’s Tree Philly program seeks to ensure that every neighborhood has a tree canopy with at least 30 coverage of the land area. It also provides free trees to residents for planting on private property and along city streets. The program includes a Tree Keepers component that employs volunteers to maintain trees across the city.
“We understand how important it is to take care of trees on streets and in parks around the city,” Parks and Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell said. “And we are grateful to the Arbor Day Foundation for acknowledging our urban forestry work for the past 41 years.”
Several professional arborists spent much of the day pruning trees in Wissinoming Park, which features dozens of species.
“The maintenance of our existing trees is just as important as planting new trees,” Ott Lovell said.
Children from Mother of Divine Grace School in Port Richmond, People for People Charter School in Fairmount and McIlvain Tot Rec in Frankford celebrated the day by learning about trees and climbing a few of them.
Parks and Rec staff members used a rope and harness rig to hoist MDG fifth-graders up a limb about 20 feet above the grass, while city arborist David Cupps challenged the children to identify different species of trees by cross section cuts of their trunks.
“These are our next generation of tree lovers and supporters,” Ott Lovell said. ••
— William Kenny