Rolla is one step closer to joining over 3,400 communities throughout the nation in making the commitment as a Tree City through the Tree City USA program.

Rolla’s Parks and Recreations Director Floyd Jernigan introduced the final draft of the proposed ordinance to the council that addresses the protection and promotion of public health, safety and welfare through the management of the planting, maintenance and removal of trees, shrubs and other plants within the city on city-owned property.

The city council’s passage of the ordinance would enable the city to meet one of four requirements necessary to complete the application process to qualify as a Tree City USA community, while the introduction of the second standard the city must meet is planned to have its first reading through a proposed ordinance related to the formation of a tree board on Monday, June 17.

For the city to qualify as a Tree City USA community, the city must meet four standards established by the Arbor Day Foundation and the National Association of State Foresters. The city must have a tree board or department, a tree care ordinance, a community forestry program with an annual budget of at least $2 per capita, and an Arbor Day observance proclamation.

The ordinance Jernigan presented for the city council's consideration amended Chapter 31 of the Rolla City Code – Parks and Recreation, by adding Article VII to regulate the planting, maintenance and removal of trees, shrubs and other plants on city property ꟷ meeting the standard for a tree care ordinance.  

Jernigan said revisions from the initial draft of the ordinance were made, which adds the requirement that tree planting relative to overhead utilities must come from the public tree list, and language from the initial draft was corrected.

 “This is all within the city of Rolla on city-owned property.  The ordinance also seeks to promote education and the use of best practices in the planning and maintenance of desirable trees and the prevention of invasive plants, trees and shrubs on public land,” Jernigan said.

Jernigan said the second standard requiring the formation of a Tree Board or department was presented to the Parks Advisory Commission on May 8 and they voted to accept the role of serving as the city’s Tree Board. The commission also voted at the meeting to recommend to the city council the addition of a sixth member to the commission with a background as a “tree expert.”

“They accepted that responsibility and the other two (standards) have to do with us putting together a budget showing that we have a $2 per capita to qualify, that we are putting that much investment into our trees maintenance and management,” Jernigan said. “And the other just being the Arbor Day proclamation and celebration which we can do in collaboration with schools.”

Jernigan said he will still have to present to the council changes in the parks advisory commission through a revision in the ordinance relative to obtaining a sixth member, which will have a first reading on Monday.

 “We will have to make that change in the ordinance, and also giving them the ability to function as a Tree Board,” Jernigan said. “So we will have to add that language to the ordinance as well.”

Ward 2 city councilor, Matthew Crowell, asked Jernigan, “How much per capita are we spending on this; you wouldn’t see any increase in budget requests with this proclamation?”

Jernigan said a ballpark figure is roughly $3 to $4 per capita and he doesn’t foresee any increase in budget requests. The designation of a Tree City USA community would allow the city to become eligible for grants, which would provide a funding mechanism to pay for additional training of staff, and would allow the city to take an inventory of the city’s trees, if the city decides to go that route in terms of safety.

For the city to meet the third requirement of a community forestry program with an annual budget of a minimum $2 per capita each year, the city must document at least $2 per capita toward the planting, care and removal of city trees, along with the planning efforts to make it happen, the Arbor Day Foundation states.

Under the proposed ordinance the Parks and Recreation Director will include tree planting and maintenance activities on public property, utilizing the combined efforts of the city and Rolla Municipal Utilities, reflecting the minimum amount required by the Arbor Day Foundation of $2 per capita expenditures to maintain Rolla as a Tree City USA. The Parks Advisory Commission, acting as the Tree Board, will also provide input on the budget and the financial reporting requirements.

 “And health of our forestry, it helps us manage it, so it really puts us in a position to do more,” Jernigan said before the ordinance amending Chapter 31 of the Rolla City Code – Parks and Recreation, by adding Article VII to Rolla’s City Code, was passed unanimously by the city council.

 “This has been a lot of work on your guys’ part, and I’m very thankful that you put the hours in and you really steered this ship. I am really just grateful, and I want to say thank you to you and your staff,” Ward 1 city councilor, Daniel Jones said.

On Monday, the city will conduct the first reading of a revision to the existing Article IV Sections 31-23 and Sections 31-24 of Rolla’s City Code, by adding a subsection to the duties of the Parks Advisory Commission to enable the commission to act as the city’s Tree Board and provide input on public tree management and care, which is required for the city to meet the standards for a Tree City USA community.

The proposed revision will expand the commission to six voting members, according to Jernigan, from the current five, and the sixth member will have expertise in tree planting and care. Further steps in the process of the city applying for Tree City USA designation include creating an annual budget of the minimum $2 per capita and the proclamation and hosting of an Arbor Day observance.