In celebration of Maxwell's 20th consecutive Tree City USA award, base and city leadership, volunteers and visitors taking part in the Arbor Day event witnessed the replacement of the Tree City USA marker by the Bell Street gate's visitor center. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Sandra Percival)
20 years of recognition for tree efforts

by Rebecca Burylo
Air University Public Affairs

3/1/2013 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. - -- The planting of a young crepe myrtle at Thunderbird Park by Maxwell Air Force Base and Montgomery leadership and volunteers marked Maxwell's 20th consecutive designation as a Tree City USA community in celebration of the base's Arbor Day observance Feb. 21.

Alabama Forestry Commissioner Matt McCullough presented this year's Tree City award to Col. Trent Edwards, 42nd Air Base Wing commander, before a brief reading of the Arbor Day history and proclamation at the park, which is located just outside the Maxwell Boulevard gate.

Afterward, visitors were invited to cross the street where the Montgomery Tree City USA marker was placed near the visitor center after being removed during renovations to the gate years ago. There is also a sign located at the Day Street gate.

"Last year, we had 80 Tree City USAs," said McCullough, "but for Maxwell to have it for 20 years, that's something to be grateful about because it's hard-earned."

In order to qualify for the Tree City USA award, Maxwell must have a tree board that is responsible for the care and management of the community's trees; a tree care ordinance, designating an annual forestry work plan; a community forestry program with an annual budget of $2 per member; and an Arbor Day observance and proclamation.

Twenty years of earning such recognition shows Maxwell is serious about its environment, and Edwards is proud of Maxwell's achievement.

"The first word that comes to mind is 'proud,'" said Edwards after the ceremony. "I'm very proud that 20 years ago someone thought that this was important enough to respect our trees, our environment and our landscape, and 20 years later, we're still protecting trees, environment and landscape."

Working jointly with the city of Montgomery, the triangular section of land that is Thunderbird Park was leveled and cleared by base maintenance along with the planting of three camellia bushes near the rear, six crepe myrtles along the sides and Aztec grass circling a Nuttala oak at the front. The park, originally donated to the city by the people of Montgomery in 1982, honors Air Force pilots, especially the Thunderbird pilots, and is one of the areas up for negotiation in a possible land swap between Maxwell and Montgomery.

Russell Stringer, city urban forester, collaborated with program facilitator Krissy Harp, an environmental manager with the 42nd Civil Engineering Squadron, to clean up Thunderbird Park and appreciates the work Maxwell is doing to help the community.

"I just want to say how much the city appreciates Maxwell and what you're doing for Thunderbird Park," said Stringer. "We want to let everyone know that the city really appreciates all of you."

Initiated to help beautify Thunderbird Park for visitors and pedestrians, Harp's hope was to extend the city's landscaping efforts for Maxwell Boulevard. The crepe myrtles at the park were selected to match the ones along the street's median, which in June will bloom light and dark pinks.

"We wanted the area looking presentable and welcoming for the city and the community to enjoy," said Harp. "We also wanted to match the city's efforts on Maxwell Boulevard, so that's why we chose the myrtles."

In the future, Harp would like to create a brick pathway through the park to allow people to safely cross the boulevard.