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Happy Arbor Day!

By Staff | May 1, 2020

A tree blossoms across the street in front of McMurran Hall last Friday. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — For the 13th year in a row, Shepherdstown has been named a Tree City USA for its work to protect and increase the number of trees in Shepherdstown in 2019.

The renewed designation is usually celebrated every year at the town’s annual May Day and Arbor Day celebration, with the planting of a tree. However, the celebration was cancelation this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so the designation had to be commemorated in a quieter way, according to Shepherdstown Public Works Director Frank Welch.

“Usually the state of WV Forestry Service gives us a tree to plant for that celebration. I don’t think we’re getting a tree next year, because of what is going on,” Welch said, referring to COVID-19-related job changes.

According to Welch, the Public Works Department is currently working on planting five trees in town, around Arbor Day. In all, the department generally plants about 10 trees per year, the majority of which are paid for by the Corporation of Shepherdstown.

“Basically the more trees we have the better it is for the environment. We’ve increased the tree canopy, which is what tree cities do. Our goal is to get as many trees as we can, within reason,” Welch said, mentioning the trees are generally planted in the fall, which is their optimal growing season, or in early spring. “If you plant them in this period, you usually get more rain on them, which helps them grow.”

Over the past 30 years, the town’s tree conservation has been overseen by the Tree Commission.

“Shepherdstown has always been interested in keeping the trees, planting good trees. When we had a Tree Commission appointed, it was their job to take care of trees that were on the public right-of-way,” Welch said, mentioning these trees can be seen in many places throughout Shepherdstown, including along German Street and in the town’s parks.

“If there’s a tree that needs some type of maintenance, we study it to make sure it has the proper maintenance. We continue to, if some get bad or diseased, we take that out and plant another one,” Welch said, mentioning no trees are removed without a majority vote by the Tree Commission. “When we hire someone to trim the tree or take it down, the company has to have an arborist on their team. Otherwise we won’t use them. If you can look at a tree to trim, you’ve got to know what you’re looking at. Arborists have studied all of that, so they know.”

While the Tree City USA designation may have begun being given to the town long after it began its tree conservation efforts, the recognition helps the town stand out from other municipalities across the country.

“Shepherdstown is one of 3,600 Tree City communities, with a combined population of 155 million. Residents of Shepherdstown should be proud to live in a community that makes the planting and care of trees a priority,” said Arbor Day Foundation President Dan Lambe. “If ever there was a time for trees, now is that time. Communities worldwide are facing issues with air quality, water resources, personal health and energy use. As a result of your commitment to effective urban forest management, you are helping to provide a solution to these challenges.”

The Tree City USA program is sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation in partnership with the U.S. Forestry Service and the National Association of State Foresters.