Sweet Home receives its 14th Tree City USA award

The City of Sweet Home was awarded its 14th consecutive Tree City USA award Saturday during the annual Sweet Home Tree Fair Saturday morning.

Lee Vaughn of the Oregon Department of Forestry presented a new Tree City USA flag to Mayor Craig Fentiman in a brief ceremony. Vaughn made the presentation of the flag and award on behalf of the ODF and the National Arbor Day Foundation.

The award and Tree Fair coincided with the celebration of Arbor Day in Sweet Home.

Arbor Day began when a newspaperman moved to Nebraska in the 1870s, Vaughn said. He missed trees and started the celebration.

The U.S. government decided Arbor Day was worth celebrating as a nation in the 1890s. In 1983, the Oregon Legislature recognized Arbor Week.

“It’s really a celebration of our future, not so much of the past,” Vaughn said. Trees increase the value of property. They offer heat, wood products, paper, clean air and clean water. They prevent erosion and provide good fish and wildlife habitat.

“It’s a great thing, totally awesome,” Mayor Fentiman said. After 14 years as a Tree City, “I think you can look around and actually see the difference in town. The difference in town from 14 years ago is incredible. You can definitely see a difference in the number of trees planted.”

Fentiman said he is looking forward to seeing the downtown street trees this spring. Those were planted in the last two and three years.

“You’re going to see them really start to show,” Fentiman said. It takes time for trees to make their mark. Fentiman referred to a paper bark maple he planted seven years ago in his backyard. Now, it’s beginning to fill out.

To earn Tree City recognition, a city must have an active tree commission and it must spend $2 per capita on urban tree projects each year.

During the Tree Fair, members of the Sweet Home Tree Commission, sold young trees for a dollar. Various agencies, crafters and vendors provided displays, while experts provided workshops on caring for trees. Door prizes were awarded periodically throughout the day.

Turnout for the Tree Fair was about 100 Saturday afternoon, down from close to 200 last year.

“I think anytime people come in and have a good time, it’s a good thing. It’s a success,” Charlene Adams, who helped organize the event, said. “Overall, I think it’s been a very good day. It’s always a bit of work, but it’s always a lot of fun.”