Claremont’s ‘Tree City’ status in limbo
by Steven Felschundneff | firstname.lastname@example.org
A number of alert readers contacted the Courier this week after learning Claremont had lost its Tree City USA status.
The recognition comes from the Arbor Day Foundation, which has been “Recognizing green communities across America since 1976,” according to its website.
To be designated a Tree City USA, a municipality must maintain a tree board or department, have a community tree ordinance, spend at least $2 per capita on urban forestry, and celebrate Arbor Day. It’s also up to the city to reapply each year. The city still meets all four requirements and recently held its Arbor Day 2023, according to Community Services Director Jeremy Swan.
For 2021, 3,652 cities were recognized, but Claremont was not on the list because it did not submit an application, according to Lauren Weyers, program operations manager at the foundation.
“Claremont did not complete a 2021 application for recognition, thus they were not recognized,” Weyers said. “They have filled out a 2022 application and it is currently under review. If they met the standards in 2022, they should be approved for 2022 recognition within the next few weeks.”
Still, the revelation that Claremont lost its status comes at a rather awkward moment given the controversy over its recently published urban forest audit that called for the removal of thousands of mature trees.
Following the devastating windstorm last year, the City Council authorized West Coast Arborist to conduct an urban forest condition assessment to identify any trees that may be at risk of falling due to damage sustained in the storm. West Coast Arborist also provided an overall evaluation on the health of Claremont’s city-owned trees.
The mitigation plan identified Italian stone pine, red ironbark eucalyptus and Canary Island pine as being the most prone to failure in the event of another storm. Furthermore, it recommended these three types of trees be removed and replaced with other species over a five-to-10-year period.
Some Courier readers have expressed concern that a potential conflict of interest exists by asking West Coast Arborist to conduct an audit when that company will profit from the tree removals. In response, WCA said through the community services department the employees who conducted the audit are all certified arborists.
“Additionally, the assessment was overseen and the final report was developed by the plant health care manager at WCA who is an ISA Board Certified Master Arborist and ISA Qualified Risk Assessor,” according to Swan.
In response to public criticism of the audit and the recommendation that tree removal is the primary solution for troubled trees, the community services department pulled the plan from the community and human services commission’s March 1 agenda. Community services employees are set to review WCA’s audit and the resulting mitigation plan.
On Wednesday, Swan said his staff is still working on its recommendations for the WCA audit and should have an update next month.
“The City’s urban forest sits comfortably at approximately 25,000 trees,” read a staff report from Swan. “An urban forest of this size is manageable within the City’s current funding sources and available space. Over the past few years, the City has made great strides to develop best management practices of the urban forest, including but not limited to: moving from a 7- to 5-year grid trimming cycle, grid removals, street tree diversification, and responsible tree planting. With these improvements, the City’s urban forest is healthier and better equipped to sustain the natural environment of the urban community.”
Meanwhile, the community services department is currently winding down its spring 2023 reforestation program ahead of the hot summer months. Requests for new street trees will be accepted until Wednesday, March 29, for planting this spring. Any requests received after that date will be scheduled for fall planting.
Residents who live adjacent to sites where a tree was removed in the past year will automatically receive a letter offering a replacement tree. Anyone else can request a tree for their location, provided the proposed site is considered viable. A city employee will evaluate the site for adequate grow space, potential interference with utility lines, traffic clearance, as well as verifying an adequate and consistent water source exists.
If you would like to request a new tree, contact Community Services Manager Cari Dillman at (909) 399-5431.