Story and photos by Callie Broaddus
Middleburg, you’re so pretty, you should get an award.” Nobody actually said that. Well … I just did, but we were all thinking it.
Many of our readers may already know this, but there actually is an award for something like that. Middleburg has already gotten it 15 times and April 29 the town will get it again.
Each Arbor Day since 2002, the town of Middleburg has celebrated its recognition as a Tree City USA — a designation awarded by the Arbor Day Foundation recognizing a community’s commitment to maintaining a healthy forest.
The Tree City USA program was started in 1976 in cooperation with the National Association of State Foresters and the U.S. Forest Service. In its first year, the Tree City USA signs went up in 42 communities.
Today, over 3,400 cities, towns and small communities in every state, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico hold the designation. Middleburg’s signs are posted on Route 50 on both sides of town.
But communities aren’t simply given a road sign with a pat on the back just for having nice trees. Before a community can apply, it must conform to four standards laid out by the Arbor Day Foundation to help set the groundwork for proper urban forest management.
First, someone needs to be responsible for the care of every tree on community-owned property, so some form of tree department or board must be established. Second, the community must have a tree care ordinance, which is essentially a document assigning responsibility for public tree care, and providing guidance for future planting, maintenance and removal. The third standard requires that at least $2 per capita be allocated for tree-related expenses.
Finally, the community must observe or celebrate Arbor Day in some way. All of that may sound like a hassle, but the returns are worth more than just the road sign posted on Route 50.
Arbor Day Foundation research states that trees provide a laundry list of well-known benefits. Urban tree canopy can reduce stormwater runoff by up to 65 percent, which mitigates expensive and unsightly flood control measures.
Realtors report a property value increase of between 7-20 percent for properties with healthy trees. They also report that these properties rent out quicker and tenants tend to stay longer.
Two of the most tangible benefits for Middleburg involve the cooling effect trees have on an urban environment through transpiration (giving off water vapor) and shade. In an old town like Middleburg, old buildings often have old insulation.
The Arbor Day Foundation reports that strategically planted trees can serve as a sort of added insulation, reducing a building’s energy consumption by up to 25 percent. An urban tree canopy contributes to a pleasant shopping experience, increasing tourism and sales for small businesses.
Just imagine window-shopping through Middleburg in July without any trees to shade your walk. Nobody wants to dilly-dally in direct sun during a Virginia summer.
Being part of the Tree City USA program gives Middleburg a well-structured framework to plan for proper tree maintenance, planting and removal. The program is completely free, but Arbor Day Foundation members can receive additional educational resources through a bimonthly bulletin for $15 per year. The bulletins cover topics such as “How to Make Trees Storm Resistant,” “How to Fight the Emerald Ash Borer” or even “How to Kill a Tree.”
Back issues of the bulletins are available online for a small fee and are an excellent resource for anyone interested in our local environment.
Middleburg will celebrate Arbor Day and its designation as a Tree City USA in a fun event at The Hill School April 29. Whether you attend the official celebration or not, remember to appreciate the trees of Middleburg this Arbor Day for all the benefits they provide. ML