Seventh time is a charm.
The Arbor Day Foundation recently announced that Fort Myers Beach was selected as a Tree City USA community for its commitment to urban forestry. The distinction marks the seventh consecutive year the Beach has earned the national honor.
John Rosenow, chief executive and founder of the Arbor Day Foundation, commended Beach officials, volunteers and residents for their role in the award.
"We all benefit when communities like Fort Myers Beach place a high priority on planting and caring for trees, one of the nation's most beautiful resources," he said. "Trees shade our homes and add beauty to our neighborhoods. They also provide many environmental, economic and social benefits. We applaud Fort Myers Beach's elected officials, volunteers and citizens for providing vital care for its urban forest."
The Arbor Day Foundation is the nation's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to planting trees. It sponsors the Tree City USA program in conjunction with the National Association of State Foresters and the USDA Forest Service.
"It's great, and I hope we can continue the streak," said Lois Poff, executive assistant to the Town manager and member of the local garden club. "We are working on getting more residents to participate in the streetscape program."
The streetscape program assists residents with the creation of a tropical canopy on Town street.
'If a couple of neighbors get together and work on a streetscape program and show us their design prior to doing anything, we pay half of their cost," said Poff. 'That helps us meet some of the criteria we have to meet to be called a Tree City USA community."
Four standards must be met to receive such a green community status. Tree City USA communities require a tree board or department; a tree-care ordinance; a community forester program with annual expenditures of at least $2 per capita; and an Arbor Day observance and proclamation.
The Town of Fort Myers Beach and the Estero Island Garden Club have offered half-priced trees to Beach residents on an annual basis for its Florida Arbor Day Tree Sale. The Town absorbs the other half of the tree price.
"The more trees we sell the better it shows on our Tree City certification," said Poff, who stated tree sales have been down in recent years.
The Town and local garden club have two tree sales per year. Florida Arbor Day is observed on the third Friday in January, and National Arbor Day is observed on the last Friday in April. Poff said that sale will feature the Christmas Palm, the Jatropha, Crape Myrtle and the Live Oak (all in seven gallon containers) at half price.
Trees promote healthier communities by filtering the air we breathe by removing dust and other particles, by moderating climate, conserving water and providing vital habitat for wildlife, by reducing the heat island effect in urban areas caused by pavement and buildings and by reducing energy use and increasing property values.
For more information about Tree City USA, check out website www.arborday.org/TreeCityUSA.
So far, 2,226 total trees have been planted on Fort Myers Beach since 2005. The Town supports a Streetscape program where neighbors can get together, plant trees for beautification reasons and receive a discount. Learn more about that particular program by picking up a free copy of the Town's Streetscape booklet at Town Hall at the reception desk.