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Murray Journal

Murray honored with Tree Line USA designation

Apr 29, 2019 09:12AM ● By Shaun Delliskave

A Murray City arborist uses a bucket hoist to chainsaw a tree that fell into Little Cottonwood Creek at Murray Park. (Photo courtesy of Murray Power)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

You have seen the road signs declaring that you have entered Murray City, a Tree City USA town. While those signs have been up since 1977, Murray has been given a new, elite designation as a Tree Line USA city by the National Arbor Day Foundation, recognizing its commitment to urban forests.

Matt Erkelens, forestry supervisor for Murray City Power, explained, “[The] Tree Line USA program exists to recognize best practices in public and private utility arboriculture, demonstrating how trees and utilities can co-exist for the benefit of communities and citizens.”

Murray City Power had to meet five core standards to become eligible for the Tree Line USA status. The city has to consistently provide quality tree care, such as the pruning, planting, and removal of trees, and Murray Power must give annual training to utility employees in best forestry practices. 

The city also has to offer tree planting and public education programs to the public and paying customers as well as demonstrate proper tree planting, placement, and pruning while expanding the tree canopy in the community. Murray must also have a Tree-Based Energy Conservation Program, a formal tree-based energy conservation plan that gives special consideration to the value of trees in conserving energy.

Lastly, the city has to support an Arbor Day Celebration. Sponsorship of participation in annual Arbor Day events at the community level must be documented, including collaboration with community groups whenever possible.

“We will celebrate the Tree Line USA recognition at our annual Arbor Day ceremony that will be held at the Murray Park Amphitheatre on May 3rd at 12 p.m.,” stated Erkelens. “We invite the Utah State Forester and his staff to join us in celebrating our 42nd consecutive Tree City USA recognition and poster contest.”

Brigham City Public Power and Provo City Power are the only other Utah entities that have earned the designation. While power companies and trees seem like natural enemies, in which there is a never-ending battle between power lines and branches, public utilities do benefit from trees. For instance, trees help reduce strain on the utility grid by providing natural cooling to homes in the summer.

“Murray City will benefit by having lower line clearance costs resulting from proper pruning; improved rights-of-way management as a result of ‘right tree, right place’ plantings; increased public exposure by meeting Tree Line USA requirements, resulting in community tree planting and public education; and lower peak energy demand through the increased canopy and better placement of trees,” Erkelens said.

Citizens will also enjoy “increased reliability of service because properly pruned and maintained trees with healthy root systems will mean less decay and structural weakness and fewer downed lines during storms; and collaborative urban forest management opportunities between the utility and other groups that impact community trees [will flourish]. More trees will [also] help absorb carbon dioxide produced by power plants that burn fossil fuels.”

Erkelens also noted residents of Murray City benefit by having a healthier and more abundant community forest. Reduced tree mortality results from proper pruning and trenching/tunneling practices. Strategically planted trees for energy conservation and a broader urban forest canopy result in reduced consumer energy costs. Finally, trees reduce heat islands as a result of more shaded pavement.

Murray City will celebrate a joint Arbor Day and Earth Day on May 3 at the Murray Park Amphitheatre. The theme for this year’s celebration will be “Trees are Terrific for All Living Things.” This year Murray Power sold parking strip trees to the public. At the celebration, the public will learn about proper tree care and can attend educational seminars.