In 1903, when the City acquired Woodland Park it was one of the only areas in the city with trees. Now just 119 years later, Kalispell’s urban forest is vast and vibrant. 35 years ago, the City Council acknowledged the importance of trees by creating an Urban Forestry Committee and establishing a tree ordinance. This year marks the 35th year that the City of Kalispell has maintained Tree City USA status by meeting the requirements set forth by the National Arbor Day Foundation. By meeting additional program requirements, the City of Kalispell is in the 28th year of achieving the Growth Award. Forestry Assistance Specialist Ali Ulwelling with the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation was on hand to present the Mayor with a plague and Tree City flag, explaining that only a few Montana communities can boast 35 years with the Tree City USA designation.
During the April 18, 2022 Council Meeting, Urban Forestry Committee member Tony Nelson explained to the Mayor and Council the many accomplishments they and forestry staff in the Parks and Recreation Department were able to accomplish. An urban forestry assessment that was put in place by City Council provides the funding for most of our urban forestry needs. As Tony Nelson stated, “The Urban Forest is not just for any one individual, it is for the community as a whole. Council’s decision to better fund the urban forestry program will leave a legacy for future generations. Kalispell will continue to be a community known for its beautiful tree lined boulevards. “
Some of the urban forestry program successes in 2021 that Mr. Nelson described included the pruning of roughly 1,745 city trees through in-house and contract staff, and the removal of 100 trees that were irreparably damaged by a 2019 wind event. Many of the trees removed were replaced. Nearly 50 trees were also planted as part of the 50/50 cost share tree program with costs being further offset by a grant from the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. Also in 2021, the Urban Forestry Committee took citizens on an informative walking tour of the trees in Woodland Park.
The annual Arbor Day event which educates area third-graders about conservation and the many benefits of trees, was held virtually last year with the creation of 12 videos of environmental stations. This year, the Committee is happy to say the event will be once again held in person at Woodland Park on Friday, April 29, with the formal ceremony with Mayor Johnson starting at 9 a.m., and a dozen environmental stations and activities provided by a variety of partner agencies available throughout the day. They expect 300 3rd-graders as well as over 50 volunteers to attend and have also invited anyone from the public who would like to participate. Volunteers will also help plant 35 new trees in parks and boulevards throughout town this Arbor Day. If you would like to get involved, more volunteers are needed for tree planting.
The Committee is also happy to announce the start of a new media campaign titled, “Plant Trees for Our Health” that has been made possible by a grant from the DNRC. The four pillars of the campaign are centered around the idea that trees help with mental health, lower temperatures, reduce pollutants, and produce higher test scores. Several billboards and a media campaign has been launched to share with the community scientific research supporting these themes.
Thank you to Urban Forestry Supervisor Colter Hanson and all the volunteers who serve on the Urban Forestry Committee – Tony Nelson, Judy Rosenfeld-Cox, Erin Stieber, April Vomfell, and Martin Rippens. Your contributions are so very appreciated!