Arbor Day Honors City’s 30th Year as a Tree City USA

PHOTO 1:  Matt Mrizek of the Georgia Forestry Commission presents City Manager Larry Hanson with the Tree City USA award, marking the 30th consecutive year that the City of Valdosta has received the award for its management of trees in Valdosta’s urban forest. 

PHOTO 2:  To commemorate Arbor Day, three Trident Maples were planted near the American Legion Post 13. (In photo from left): Emily Davenport, City of Valdosta Assistant Engineering Director; Matt Mrizek, Georgia Forestry Commission; Bette Bechtel,


Former City of Valdosta Councilmember and Past Tree Commission Member; John Gayle, Mayor; Larry Hanson, City Manager; Jason Manley, South Region Vice President of the Georgia Power Company; Amy Hall, Valdosta Tree Commission Chair; Monica Haynes, VSU Landscape & Grounds Superintendent; Kevin Jenkins, City of Valdosta Urban Forestry Supervisor.

The City of Valdosta was honored on Feb. 19 by the Georgia Forestry Commission as a Tree City USA community for its 30th consecutive year at the annual Arbor Day event, sponsored by the Valdosta Tree Commission. The event was held at the American Legion Post 13. 

Valdosta received the Tree City USA award for meeting four standards including designating a Tree Commission, passing a tree care ordinance, establishing a comprehensive community forestry program, and proclaiming and hosting an Arbor Day celebration. 

Of the 536 cities in the state of Georgia, only 135 cities have been designated Tree City USA communities—and only nine of the 135 cities have held the honor for 30 consecutive years or more. Valdosta City Manager Larry Hanson, who accepted the Tree City USA designation on behalf of the city of Valdosta, said the designation is a significant accomplishment that shows the long-term commitment that Valdosta has made to the investment of its trees and natural resources.

At the event, Valdosta State University was recognized for its fourth year as a Tree Campus USA, making it one of 12 colleges and universities in Georgia with this designation. Georgia Power was also recognized as the only utility company in the state as a Tree Line USA recipient for its eighth year. Valdosta is one of the first communities in the state to achieve all three designations—Tree City, Tree Campus and Tree Line—at the same time.

“Today is such a beautiful day and one so worthy of this celebration,” said Larry Hanson. “It is an incredible honor for our city, VSU and Georgia Power to all be recognized for our collective commitment to trees and to their important role in the appearance and beauty of our city, the benefits they bring to our air quality and our environment, and their importance in making our city and the campus a place people want to call home.”

At the event, the Valdosta Tree Commission presented the following awards to individuals and organizations in the community who share in the investment of our community tree canopy:

  • Tree Planting Award—Annie Barbas, Master Gardener
  • Preservation Award—First State Bank
  • Legacy Award—Kerry Watts, Environmental Horticulture Program Coordinator at Wiregrass Georgia Technical College 

Valdosta Mayor John Gayle presented the Valdosta Tree Commission with a proclamation in support of its beautification programs and continued commitment to our environment. 

“I’m proud of our community’s long-standing commitment to the planting of trees, to the maintenance of our urban forest and to the overall commitment to environmental stewardship, so that our city will be green and sustainable and attractive for generations to come,” said Mayor Gayle. “That requires a community effort, one that we are fortunate to have here in Valdosta.

Donald Davis, Director of the Lowndes County Historical Society and Museum, was the guest speaker at the event.

The Tree City USA program was established by the Arbor Day Foundation, along with the National Association of State Foresters and the USDA Forest Service, to improve community forestry. There are more than 3,400 Tree City USA communities across the nation, representing 135 million citizens.

In 1973, former Valdosta City Councilmember Bette Bechtel introduced the first Tree and Landscape Ordinance to the Mayor and Council, which was passed unanimously in 1974. In 1984, the city formed the Valdosta Tree Commission. The efforts, education, and vision of these early leaders has led to a city recognized for its beauty, its urban tree canopy, and its commitment to trees and their important place in the quality of life of our city.

In 1990, the city hired a full-time Arborist to bring more emphasis and education and to work with the community to plant, preserve and protect our urban tree canopy. The city’s tree and landscape ordinance had significant changes in 1994 and in 2000.  In that particular year, the tree commission, general contractors, developers, homebuilders and others came together to agree upon a balanced ordinance, one that allowed development so that the city could grow and prosper, but one that encouraged preservation of specimen trees and included reasonable requirements for tree planting, tree maintenance, greenspace and landscaping. Over the years, the city has streamlined their Arbor Division with the Engineering Department to better plan for city projects.

Visit the photo gallery on the City of Valdosta’s new website to view photos of the event.  For more information, visit

Posted by Sementha Mathews Friday, February 19, 2016 6:10:00 PM Categories: Administration Engineering Environmental Press Release Public Information