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Atmore named Tree City for 16th consecutive year

By By James Crawford
News Editor
For the 16th consecutive year, Atmore has been named Tree City USA by the National Arbor Day Foundation. The Tree City USA program is sponsored by the National Arbor Day Foundation in cooperation with the National Association of State Foresters and the USDA Forest Service.
To become a Tree City USA, a community must meet four standards: a tree board or department must be established, a tree care ordinance must be in place and active, a comprehensive community forestry program must be established, an Arbor Day observance must be declared, and in most cases at least half of the trees within a city are located on public property.
Beautification efforts are nothing new to Atmore. Situated in the southern end of Alabama, Atmore is home to a wide variety of trees and shrubbery indigenous to this area.
Efforts to make Atmore more tree-friendly were started decades ago by the Men's Garden Club, a once-prominent group of local Atmoreans who have since disbanded due to the age of the members and several members having passed away.
The club was founded by a group of dedicated men who took it upon themselves to plant trees and bushes throughout the city and maintain them. A tree is planted in front of City Hall in honor of each of them. Their work has been taken over by the Tree Commission appointed by Atmore Mayor Howard Shell. The commission members are Atmoreans Judy Pylate, Gertha Adams, Juanita Smith, and Eugenia Wilson.
"It shows our interest in nature is something we want to promote. The tree city distinction is something we have had for 16 years that we're very proud of," said Mayor Shell commenting on Atmore being named a Tree City.
Atmore began replacing city trees in the 1980s at the behest of resident Ealy Wise, a devoted citizen who took the initiative to start the program at his own expense. Since then the city has included beautification efforts in its ordinances and permits whenever possible.
"We have tried to include beautification in our planning; that as many trees and bushes as possible be left or replaced," said Shell. "We want to continue to have the aesthetic value of trees wherever we can."
The City has also planted Crape Myrtles alongside the railroad tracks and at Fairview Cemetery. "We added a distinct beautification to that area," said Shell.
According to Shell, the Chamber of Commerce has also been involved with beautification efforts throughout Atmore, such as the planting of Oak Trees at Oak Cemetery.
A company from Mobile relocated the oak trees currently in front of City Hall from the park 15 years ago. "Some were left. We felt like they could grow without causing a problem. We feel it's our duty to leave as many trees as possible," said Shell.
In downtown, Pink Hawthorns have replaced the Bradford Pears that once lined the streets. "The Bradford Pears were cracking the sidewalks. On advice from a horticulturist from Auburn we decided to replace them. The Pink Hawthorns have a smaller root base," said Shell.
Local Atmore resident Yvonne Yeldon has taken on the mission of promoting Atmore's Tree City distinction whenever possible. Yeldon has been named to the board of directors of the National Arbor Day Foundation and is working to get the City of Atmore featured in the Arbor Day Foundation's Our Town Tree City USA newsletter with a unique story of its own.
"Trees in our cities and towns help clean the air, conserve soil and water, moderate temperature and bring nature into our daily lives. Trees are a vital component of the infrastructure in our towns and cities, and provide many environmental and economical benefits," said Arbor Day Foundation President John Rosenow. "A community, and its citizens, that recognize these benefits and provides needed care for its trees deserves recognition and thanks."
As part of the weeklong celebration, the Forestry Service routinely gives away free saplings on a first-come, first-serve basis while supplies last. The National Arbor Day Foundation also has a free tree program that it offers each year. Ten free white flowering dogwoods are being given to each person who joins the foundation during March as part of the nonprofit Foundation's Trees for American Campaign