Clinton Elementary students commemorate Arbor Day

Clinton officials, educators, and students celebrated Clinton being named a Tree City when a sapling was planted at Clinton Elementary School to commemorate Arbor Day.
Clinton Elementary School students, teachers, and Clinton City government officials met outside CES on Friday, April 21, to celebrate Arbor Day.

Students and teachers planted a sapling in front of the school to commemorate the event.

Arbor Day is a day typically set aside to celebrate the benefits of trees. It is a tradition that dates back to 1872, the day the first Arbor Day celebration was held. Since then, cities across the United States began to celebrate the day with proclamations and tree planting ceremonies.

“Some cities, like Norris, Oak Ridge, Maryville, and Knoxville, have already received Tree City status,” said Riley Sain, Clinton High School science teacher and Envirothon club coach, in an interview last week.

Sain said the Arbor Day ceremony at CES is part of the CHS Envirothon’s overall goal to establish Clinton as a Tree City USA.

The plan to have the City of Clinton earn the title of Tree City USA began in 2015, Sain said, when students in the CHS Envirothon club competed in an environmental competition in which they learned about urban forestry and the benefits of managing urban trees.

“Students discovered that Clinton was not a Tree City USA, but that the cities of Norris, Oak Ridge, and Knoxville already had the designation. They wanted to know why Clinton was not a Tree City and then wanted to know the steps Clinton could take to become a Tree City,” he said.

According to Sain, this is when the plan originated to make Clinton a Tree City.

“In the fall of 2015, five students from CHS Envirothon approached the [Clinton] city council asking them about Clinton pursuing Tree City status, and [Clinton City] Mayor Scott Burton and the council approved looking into it and researching what steps to take to get this designation,” he said.

In order to become a Tree City USA, a city must first meet certain standards established by the National Arbor Day Foundation, the national agency that sets Tree City standard guidelines and recognizes cities for best practices.

The Arbor Day Foundation requires that a city seeking Tree City status must show that it supports its urban forest in four key areas.

First, the city must establish a tree advisory board; second, a public tree care ordinance; third, a $2 budget per person annually for tree care, maintenance, removal, and planting; and fourth, the city must celebrate Arbor Day.

After all requirements have been met; the Arbor Day Foundation in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service and the National Association of Foresters; then awards the city with the designation of Tree City USA.

The City of Clinton has already established a tree advisory board, a public tree care ordinance, and recently celebrated its first ever Arbor Day event, and is well on its way to becoming a Tree City, Sain said.

“The hope is that by this time next year we will have earned the title Tree City USA,” he said.

If it receives the Tree City designation, Clinton will be the 45th community in Tennessee to have met this status.

There are currently 44 Tree City communities in Tennessee, the oldest being the City of Norris, with 37 years as a Tree City.

The second longest Tree City in East Tennessee is Maryville, with 35 years, followed by Sevierville, 32, Kingsport, 30, Oak Ridge and Gatlinburg, 28, Chattanooga, 26, and Johnson City, 16.

Mayor Burton was one of the city officials to attend the Arbor Day celebration. Burton participated by reading aloud a proclamation honoring Arbor Day.

According to Sain, Burton has been a key figure on Clinton City Council in advocating the push to get Clinton recognized as a Tree City USA, and was commended by Sain for promoting trees and working diligently toward Tree City designation certification.