Tree planting, maintenance a priority in Marquette

The city of Marquette recently observed Arbor Day and the city’s Tree City USA status. Pictured (left to right) are Don Smalley of the Marquette Tree Board, council members Rinda Ferguson, Jason Winter, John Ries, Cindy Halvorson and Galen McShane and mayor Norma Mason. (Photo by Audrey Posten)


By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor


Trees are an important aspect of every community, said Don Smalley, head of the Marquette Tree Board. “They’re aesthetically pleasing and they provide shade and cover for homes and birds.”


Marquette has made planting and taking care of its trees one of its priorities. The city is involved with the organization Trees Forever and gained a Tree City USA designation from the Arbor Day Foundation.


In order to get the designation, said Smalley, the city has to meet several requirements, including the establishment of a tree board, which he is involved with, along with Dennis Mason and Darren Matthew. The city also has to celebrate Arbor Day in the form of a proclamation and tree planting project, budget specifically for the planting and maintenance of trees and create a tree ordinance that dictates things like where trees are planted and pruning responsibilities.


Smalley said he has been involved with Marquette’s tree projects for 20 years, since a committee was formed to gain funding through Trees Forever. Through the program, energy companies had to return a percentage of their profits to residents in the form of energy efficient programs. Tree planting was a popular way to do this since tree shade cooled the ground and buildings during the summer and conifers blocked wind during the winter. After doing that for several years, Smalley said the committee thought it would be nice to get a Tree City designation. The council thought it was a good idea, so the tree board was created.


While residential planting was a major focus in the beginning, Smalley said the tree board is leaning away from that.


“We’re leaning more toward public planting now,” he said. “We’ve gotten most of the holes plugged for the residential stuff, although, once in a while, a project comes along.”


Much of the public planting is done in the city’s parks, including the planting of 11 trees at the west end of the city park downtown. The area, Smalley said, used to resemble a “parking lot in a parking lot.” Although it will take time for the trees to mature, he said the area has come a long way.


Smalley said the tree board receives funds from the city to regularly maintain, prune and examine trees. He applauded the city’s proactive approach, explaining that many cities the size of Marquette don’t take care of the trees, but simply leave them be and replant if necessary.

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