A bur oak tree was planted at the Park District of Forest Park on Arbor Day in 2020, the final step in the process of Forest Park being recognized with the Tree City USA designation. | File photo

Forest Park has officially received the Tree City USA designation by the Arbor Day Foundation.

At the Feb. 22 village council meeting, Commissioner Jessica Voogd announced that the town has completed all the necessary steps in the process, a process Voogd has driven from the beginning, working with Village Administrator Tim Gillian, Public Works Director John Doss and village staff.

Over a year ago, in an interview in Feb. 2020, Voogd said she was interested in seeking the designation for Forest Park even before being elected as commissioner.

“I stumbled across the Tree City USA designation during my campaign [for commissioner], I read about it and wondered why we’re not a Tree City,” said Voogd at that time.

The Arbor Day Foundation lists four standards a village must meet in order to receive national recognition, which has been around since 1976: having a tree board or department; putting into place a tree care ordinance; a community forestry program with an annual budget of at least $2 per capita; and an Arbor Day proclamation and observance.

Forest Park’s village council voted to adopt a tree care ordinance in October 2019 and issued an official proclamation of Arbor Day at a January 2020 meeting.

The final step involved an official Arbor Day observance. Plans originally were for a big community event, including the involvement of Forest Park’s elementary school district and the park district, but COVID-19 prevented a large gathering.

Commissioner Jessica Voogd

Instead, a bur oak tree, donated by McAdam Landscaping, was planted by the public works department and the Park District of Forest Park in front of the park district’s main building on April 24, 2020.

“I’m so proud of this achievement as we work to protect and honor the impact our trees have on our village’s aesthetic health, stormwater management, and property values, just to name a few things,” Voogd said during the Feb. 22 village council meeting.

“[The designation] means we’re taking action to encourage better care of our community forest,” said Voogd. “We all benefit from cleaner air, shadier streets and the aesthetic beauty a well-maintained urban forest provides. This acknowledgement of our commitment … it helps to increase public awareness of the social, economic and environmental benefits of our efforts.”

The designation, she added, is something in which the community can take pride, joining over 3,400 other Tree City communities, and it can help improve the village’s access to and success with future grant opportunities.