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Environment & Science

‘A brighter, greener future’: Palmer Township earns Tree City USA designation

Tree City street sign
Arbor Day Foundation
Residents will soon see Tree City USA signs posted throughout Palmer Township, as the municipality was named a 2022 Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation.

PALMER TWP., Pa. — Trees are important, not only for the environment, but for residents, too, Paige Strasko said Monday.

  • Palmer Township recently earned a 2022 Tree City USA designation from the Arbor Day Foundation
  • There are more than 100 Pennsylvania municipalities, including Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton, recognized in the program 
  • Township officials are having a tree-planting celebration at 10 a.m. Friday

“We all know that trees not only help to clean the air, but they also create space in the soil for water to penetrate and be cleaned through its natural processes,” said Paige Strasko, the township’s environmental administrator. “It's the clean air, shadier streets and definitely an aesthetic aspect of that beauty from street trees that just increases the mental health of our residents in our community overall.”

The township last month was named a 2022 Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation in honor of its commitment to effective urban forest management. One of several municipalities across the Lehigh Valley to earn the designation, officials said the advantages of widespread, healthy trees in a community can range from environmental benefits, like improving air quality, to enhancing the visual appeal of a neighborhood and increasing property values.

“Everyone benefits when elected officials, volunteers and committed citizens in communities like Palmer Township make smart investments in urban forests,” said Dan Lambe, chief executive officer of the Arbor Day Foundation. “Trees bring shade to our homes and beauty to our neighborhoods, along with numerous economic, social and environmental benefits.

“Palmer Township has taken steps to create a brighter, greener future.”

Palmer Township has taken steps to create a brighter, greener future.
Dan Lambe, chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation

There are more than 100 Pennsylvania municipalities with the designation, according to the Arbor Day Foundation, a nonprofit focused on planting trees across the country. With so many cities participating, just shy of 30% of the commonwealth’s residents live in a Tree City USA community. The Lehigh Valley’s major cities, Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton, have received the designation for decades.

Started in 1976, Tree City USA is one of the foundation’s oldest programs, according to its website. The program includes more than 3,600 communities from all 50 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico.

Designation requirements

The program has four main requirements in order for a municipality to capture the title: a tree board or department, a tree-care ordinance, an annual community forestry budget of at least $2 per capita and an Arbor Day observance and proclamation.

The township’s Shade Tree Commission has been working in the municipality for decades, Strasko said. It was originally established in 1974.

“We sort of revamped the commission and tried to get some new membership, some more interest from the community in what the shade tree commission does,” she said. “And from that initiative, we started working on removing dead or diseased street trees. And this year, we'll be working on replanting those street trees that we removed.

“So that was really the main initiative to go out and seek this recognition and membership with the Tree City program through Arbor Day Foundation.”

Between 150 and 160 trees have been removed from township land, Strasko said.

As officials begin to replant, there’s a strong emphasis on biodiversity.

“When you have a lot of the same species planted in neighborhoods, it can wipe out that entire neighborhood,” she said. “That's going to be part of the educational programs the commission is looking to roll out this year and upcoming years.”

“To teach residents about what they can do at home, how we plan to plan our environment better, where things are planted, and the maintenance and care of our trees.”

Officials are working on updating the township’s tree-care ordinance, she said.

“Palmer Township’s ordinance right now has mainly a lot of protection for trees during construction phases,” she said. “We are looking to update and again revamp our street tree ordinance to give a little bit better protection outside of that construction phase of developments or warehouses.”

The township also met the program’s spending requirement through recent diseased or dead tree removals — the township has about 22,500 residents and $2 per capita equates to about $45,000.

Observing Arbor Day

The program’s final requirement, an Arbor Day observance, is set for Friday, also recognized as National Arbor Day. Township officials are slated to plant six trees starting at 10 a.m. at the Charles Chrin Community Center, 4100 Green Pond Road.

“Palmer Township wanted to start off strong with our first year, planting multiple trees in a municipal-owned spot of land at the community center and really taking the opportunity to educate and do some more outreach to let our residents know that we are part of this program now, and we're looking to make improvements for our future,” Strasko said.

They’ll be planting two each of the following trees: American hornbeams, sweetgums and sweetbay magnolias, she said.

“This is our first year and the community is excited to continue these efforts into the future and hopefully grow and expand our urban forest in Palmer Township,” she said.