ST. GEORGE — You couldn’t be blamed for occasionally forgetting that St. George is situated in the oft-blistering Mojave Desert, given the fully grown, leafy-green trees throughout town.
The tree-lined streets and naturally canopied parks in St. George are part of a deliberate effort by the city to maintain an “urban forest.”
St. George was recently honored for 26 years as a Tree City USA Community during a recognition banquet, which included member cities from throughout central and Southern Utah.
“That is the most years out of anybody at the banquet,” said Ben Newman, assistant manager for St. George’s urban forestry efforts.
“We live in a beautiful place, and we have an urban forest,” Newman said, “and we love to keep what we have alive and preserve it.”
To qualify as a Tree City USA member, cities must meet four standards established by the Arbor Day Foundation and the National Association of State Foresters. The standards include maintaining a tree board or department that is legally responsible for trees on city property; establishing a tree-care ordinance that provides clear guidance for planting, maintaining and removing trees; budgeting $2 per capita for tree maintenance; and observing Arbor Day with an official proclamation.
“We love trees,” Newman said, noting that the city plants about 500 trees per year, with nearly 200 already planted this year as of the end of April.
The city also maintains its own tree farm just south of the Bloomington neighborhood area and adjacent to its wastewater treatment / reclamation plant.
“When you drive through St. George, what makes it beautiful is the trees and the urban forest,” Newman said.
Besides beautification, the trees provide shade that helps cool the city during the hottest times of the year.
“The trees definitely reduce our heat island index, so all that heat coming off the road is really reduced when you’re downtown,” city Parks Manager Shane Moore said.
“I couldn’t live here without trees. … It’s beautiful – the rocks are beautiful – but it’d be way too hot and it wouldn’t be a healthy place to live,” St. George City Councilwoman Bette Arial said.
The fruits of a shade tree initiative along St. George Boulevard are readily apparent on the road’s sidewalks and medians.
“I remember Mayor McArthur said, when we were first putting that in, he dreamed of seeing this canopy covering the street,” Moore said, “and we’re finally starting to get there.”
The city is also working to mitigate the removal of trees necessitated by the Bluff Street reconstruction project.
Trees removed by Utah Department of Transportation will not be replaced, but the city worked with the department to save some via a retaining wall construction technique.
“We saved as many as we could,” Mayor Jon Pike said, noting that the city is looking at ways to put new trees in place as the project is completed.
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