The city of Walnut Ridge recently marked its 10th year as a member of Tree City, USA.
During those 10 years, the city has received two grants focused on removing diseased trees from Stewart Park. Rob Combs, chair of Walnut Ridge’s Tree City Committee said removing the trees opened the canopy to allow for a healthier undergrowth.
“As you walk out at the park, you will notice better overall drainage,” Combs said. “Part of that I think has to do with the open canopy area. Over the last five or six years we’ve been able to remove dozens of unhealthy trees.”
Forestry officials were in Walnut Ridge last week to plant a northern red oak in Stewart Park. The tree, valued at $200, was planted in honor of Walnut Ridge’s 10th year as a Tree City member.
The tree was originally scheduled to be planted as part of an Arbor Day celebration in 2020, but had to be postponed due to COVID-19.
Those participating in Thursday’s ceremony included Kenny Smothers, a county forester with the Arkansas Agriculture Department’s Forestry Commission, Craighead County Ranger Lee Chambers and Lawrence County Ranger Eric Smith, as well as Walnut Ridge Mayor Charles Snapp.
Combs noted that former Mayor Don House proposed that Walnut Ridge become a Tree City and that Mayor Charles Snapp has continued to be very supportive of the effort. Walnut Ridge joins 40 other Tree Cities in Arkansas and 3,400 across the country.
Planting trees is a major focus of cities with a Tree City designation.
“We have given out I believe something like 500 seedling trees during Arbor Day each year,” Combs said. “According to Arkansas Forestry, each tree that is planted will yield three to five times their cost to the city. In addition to the beautification factor, there is an economic benefit and trees reduce overall energy consumption.”
Combs said because Walnut Ridge is a Tree City, they were able to get the trees at Stewart Park cataloged on line, which helps when deciding to plant new trees or remove diseased trees.
“The Tree City designation is also a plus for the city because when visitors enter into the city and see the Tree City sign, it is evidence that we care about the environment here,” Combs said.
Combs said many contribute to the success of the Tree City program.
“Over the past 10 years, we have, as a city, had over 6,000 hours of volunteer time,” he said. “Most of the volunteer time has been cleaning the park area. The city employees have been very supportive by helping provide in-kind labor.”