One commission member said Tree City USA awards show that residents care.
By NANCY TULLIS
VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU
LEETONIA -- Members of the Leetonia Shade Tree Commission haven't hugged any trees, but they've certainly counted, measured and pruned plenty of them.
Continued maintenance of trees on public land, including curb lawns and village parks, has earned the commission its first Tree City USA growth award.
The commission's efforts have also earned the village its 11th consecutive Tree City USA designation. Both awards are from the National Arbor Day Foundation.
"Every time we receive a Tree City award it's for the community," said Bill Merdich, chairman of the shade tree commission. "It's something to be proud of because it shows we care."
Merdich said in a 2000 inventory, commission members counted about 1,000 trees on village curb lawns and Wick Park. Varieties of sugar maples are the most common in the village, he said.
Merdich and Larry Duko have been commission members since its inception in 1988. Other members are Mary Trenkelbach, Mayor Artie Altomare and Councilman Danny Fire.
Duko said the shade tree commission's success wouldn't be possible without the help of many volunteers over the years. Duko said volunteers are people like himself who enjoy gardening and working with trees.
Merdich is studying urban forestry at Ohio State University. With an urban forestry degree, he can be employed by a municipality to do much of the same work he now does as a shade tree commission volunteer.
More than just beauty
Although maintaining trees in curb lawns and village parks helps make Leetonia a beautiful community, the shade tree commission's work is far more than just aesthetic, Merdich said.
They plant new trees and inspect older ones for signs of disease and decay. They work closely with Ohio Edison to keep limbs of older trees away from power lines.
They protect residents and their property by having trees removed that are decaying and may cause a hazard.
Merdich and Duko both said in the years since the shade tree commission was established, there has been a marked reduction in property damage to homes and vehicles caused by falling trees or limbs.
Although the shade tree commission can't prune, plant or remove trees on private property, property owners often ask members' advice, Merdich said. Merdich said his training at OSU he has learned characteristics of the many tree varieties so he knows what trees will fare well in different environments.
Trees planted in curb lawns, for example, need to be hearty to resist the elements and chemicals from automotive products and road salt. Merdich said it would also be important not to plant a tree on the curb lawn that would impede growth of other trees or plants nearby.
Goal this year
Merdich said the shade tree commission's goal this year is to maintain trees and work to preserve some of the older ones.
He said commission members have not yet tackled the daunting task of counting the trees in the heavily forested Cherry Valley Coke Ovens park.
Communities picked for the Tree City growth award go beyond the basic criteria of a Tree City USA by providing extra care and addressing environmental issues.
To be named a Tree City USA, municipalities must have a tree commission, a comprehensive tree management plan, a tree ordinance and an annual Arbor Day observance.