Westlake hosts Tree City USA awards banquet

Alan Siewert, a regional urban forester from the Ohio DNR, speaks at the Tree City USA awards banquet on May 10. Westlake hosted the event, celebrating its 25th year as a Tree City. Photo by Tara Wendell

The City of Westlake, along with the Westlake Tree Commission, hosted the 2016 Tree City USA Awards banquet at LaCentre on Tuesday, May 10. Northern Ohio Tree Cities from as close as Bay Village and as far away as Sandusky, Youngstown and Wadsworth attended the event. All in all, over 240 participants, the largest gathering ever for this event, enjoyed a wonderful breakfast and lunch and many outstanding speakers. Exhibitors from many nurseries, lawn care companies, The Holden Arboretum and Forest City Tree Preservation took time to display their products to those in attendance and many local businesses provided gifts and door prizes.

Westlake's Service Director Paul Quinn emceed the program, which opened with a greeting and welcome by Westlake Mayor Dennis Clough, followed by remarks from Alan Siewert, a regional urban forester from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Beth Buchanan was there to promote the Tree Fund which finances research into tree development.

Mary Beth Schneidler, chairperson of the Westlake Tree Commission, gave a short history of the 25 years of Westlake being a Tree City and she introduced Jerry Fleischer, Westlake's first tree forester, and Stan Barnard, the current forester. Mary Beth explained how the Westlake Tree Commission, City Council, city leaders and the foresters have been instrumental in preserving trees in the city of Westlake.

Careful planning and foresight have continued a healthy plan to maintain quality green space in Westlake and to keep the city a beautiful place to live. Mary Beth also gave a little history lesson by telling the story of the many, many trees in a row along Westwood Road between Columbia and Canterbury. In the late 1920s and '30s the family that owned the land in that area wanted to mark the property line of their farm so the father had his son plant a tree there every time he misbehaved. If you are to travel down Westwood and look at the plot of land today you will still see many of those trees still standing in a long, straight line. It is believed that the young man planted over 100 trees! 

Mary Beth also thanked the current Tree Commission members for their service – John Walz with over 10 years; Margie Rossander, five years; Diane Morris, 4 years; and Justin Parks, who was recently appointed. After her talk, Mary Beth was surprised on stage with a proclamation from Mayor Clough recognizing her 25 years of service on the Tree Commission, 10 years as chairperson.

The event's morning session then continued with many outstanding speakers. Lauren Lanphear of Forest City Tree Protection gave a world view of urban forestry. His interesting PowerPoint presentation allowed the audience to view unusual tree trimmings, plantings, and preservation of trees around the world – taking the audience to Singapore, Australia, China, Russia and Czechoslovakia. He also shared ways countries honor trees, preserve historical trees and champion trees along with displaying various types of "Arbor Art" in places such as France, Italy, the U.S. and Sweden.

Several city employees concluded the morning with talks promoting interesting initiatives that Westlake has undertaken to promote a "green" city. Jim Smolik from the Engineering Department spoke on the storm water committee formed to evaluate water runoff, educate children and our community on the importance of managing water runoff and the benefits of rain barrels and organic fertilizer. Westlake has also taken an aggressive approach to improving the water retention basins throughout the city and returning many areas to a healthy environment.

Chris Stuhm from the Service Department spoke on the extensive recycling and composting projects that they have undertaken. The city has a large ecological compost facility, shared with Bay Village, to provide an alternative action to yard waste. These efforts have eliminated approximately 240,000 tons of leaves from landfills in the last 25 years. Wood waste recycling takes in approximately 10,000 cubic yards each year and sells over 4,000 cubic yards back to the community to use as wood chips and mulch. This has saved 34,000 tons from being placed in a landfill over the past 25 years!

Jim Bedell, Westlake's planning director, discussed the ordinances that Westlake has put in place to protect our trees and green space when land is developed. Detailed plans must be submitted to maintain the trees on a plot of land and approved before a business or a developer can clear the land. Westlake has been a leader in establishing ways to keep our urban forestry healthy!

Following the speaker and lunch, the Tree City Awards were presented by Alan Siewert. Among the more than 60 Northern Ohio cities recognized, Westlake was honored for being a Tree City for 25 years; Bay Village for 18 years; Rocky River, 32; Fairview Park, 24; and Avon Lake, 23.

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Volume 8, Issue 10, Posted 11:05 AM, 05.17.2016