The United Nations and the Arbor Day Foundation recognized Gainesville for its dedication to urban forestry by naming it a “tree city of the world.”
This designation has only been received by 59 other cities, 23 of which are in the U.S. and four are in Florida, said Brian Watkins, an arborist for the city’s urban forestry division. Gainesville has received the Tree City USA designation for 37 years straight, but this is the first year it’s been considered a “tree city of the world,” according to Gainesville’s website.
The Gainesville Urban Forestry Division applied for the designation in October and was notified of its recognition on Jan. 31. The city had to meet five core standards to receive its title: establishing responsibility, setting the rules, knowing what you have, allocating the resources and celebrating achievements.
The award recognizes Gainesville’s urban forestry work on an international level, Watkins said. He said departments in South Carolina, Texas and California call Gainesville’s office to ask how to model their land codes and policies after it.
“We have been making a lot of partnerships, not only with cities in Florida but also with cities around the world,” Watkins said. “That’s been a really good use of having this recognition.”
Watkins said 47 percent of Gainesville is covered in trees, putting Gainesville above the optimal amount of 45 percent, which he said was found in a tree canopy coverage ecological analysis. The city government works to preserve Gainesville’s tree canopies, remove old or decaying trees and replenish them with healthy ones.
This award will benefit the community and showcase the city’s care for its forests, said Shelby Taylor, the city’s spokesperson.
“It is an indicator to people in our community and beyond of our commitment to our urban forests,” Taylor said. “Oftentimes, government does a lot of good things behind the scenes to maintain a rich tree canopy.”
The city’s government wants to reassure Gainesville residents the city is committed to the sustainability of local urban forests, Taylor said. Maintaining clean air and improving oxygen flow are the effects of successful urban forestry and a source of city government pride.
There has not been a formal ceremony yet, but one is being planned and expected to be in April, Watkins said.
“This is a world recognition,” Watkins said. “It is kinda cool to be amongst the elite when it comes to urban forestry and how we manage our urban forestry.”
Brennen Zinckgraf, a 21-year-old UF environmental engineering senior and recreational climber, works his way up an oak branch on Turlington Plaza on Tuesday, April 5, 2016, to examine the resurrection fern on the tree for a research project.
Michelle Holder is a second-year journalism student at UF minoring in entrepreneurship and a Metro reporter at The Alligator. She is from Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. In her free time she enjoys going to coffee shops and reading.