America in Bloom honored the forestry work by Homewood public works employees with the outstanding achievement award for urban forestry.
It is the second award the village earned this year. In spring Homewood received a special accreditation through the ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation.
America in Bloom chose Homewood out of municipal and public applicants from across the country.
“It’s a nationally recognized award, not just a state thing or a local thing. It’s the whole country and they recognized our community,” Homewood Landscape and Forestry Supervisor Bryon Doerr said. “That means just a little something different.”
America in Bloom is a non-profit which promotes beautification programs and personal and community involvement with trees, flowers and plants.
The award was part of America in Bloom’s annual symposium, which recognizes municipalities in several categories. Other winners included Milwaukee, Venice, Florida and Holland, Michigan.
Homewood’s application included pictures from the downtown area, trees in the parkways lining Ridge Road and residential areas.
“We kind of went into (the application) blindly saying: Not only do we fill the qualifications, we think, for an urban forestry award. We continue to do so,” Homewood Marketing Director Jennifer Quirke said. “It wasn’t in 2019, 2020, that we decided to all of a sudden plant trees and really think about urban forestry within Homewood. It’s been going on and we care about it.”
In April, Homewood was also awarded a level I accreditation by the ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program and the Morton Arboretum. ArbNet is a global network of tree-growing bodies.
The accreditation program sets the industry arboreta standards for gardens, historic properties, college campuses and other institutions. A level I designation requires an arboretum plan, a governance group, a minimum of 25 identified and labeled species of tree, a staff to tend to the trees and some level of public access.
It’s the lowest of four levels of accreditation, but only 418 arboreta are accredited worldwide.
“The certification provides recognition of how valuable trees are to our community, and well deserved recognition that our landscape and maintenance division is world class,” said Jason Baldauf, chairman of the village Tree Committee. “It gives the village additional management tools, provides additional grant opportunities and helps protect our urban forest for generations.”
Trees and other green spaces are a priority for the village in part to help de-stress and improve the quality of life for residents, Quirke said. Doerr said from time to time, he’ll get an email or a letter from a resident thanking him and his staff for their efforts.
Quirke said: “We want our residents to be able to walk around town and feel relaxed and enjoy their environment, not just from the idea that it’s a great place to shop or a great place to eat or to put down roots. When you walk down the street and you see beautiful trees and hanging baskets, that provides a sense of calm and of happiness. Homewood is a little bit different than other communities.”
But, at this point, it’s become an expected part of life in the village, Quirke added.
“I think the bar is high and if myself or my staff don’t meet our own bar, I think we would hear more about it than any praise we currently get,” Doerr said. “It’s expected but we expect it of ourselves, as well.”
Homewood is also accredited by the Society of Municipal Arborists. Only 18 towns in the country, and only four in the state, meet the criteria of the SMA.
The village has been part of the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree City, USA program for 22 years. The program promotes viable and sustainable tree management strategies and observance of Arbor Day in communities across the country.
“Nobody (applying for the America in Bloom award) could really compete with the different number of accreditations we had,” Doerr said. “Homewood has a lot going for it as far as urban forestry.”
Several rare to the area tree species are in Homewood, including pecan, American holly and multiple oak hybrid varieties. There are over 10,000 trees lining village parkways alone including maple, linden, elm, hackberry and swamp white oak.
Homewood is in the process of replacing silver maple trees, which are in decline. Doerr and his staff are currently conducting studies of which types of trees can best acclimate to different environments within the village.
All four members of the landscape and maintenance division of public works — Doerr, Aaron Meyer, Doug Hank and Melanie Hamilton — are certified arborists and pesticide applicators. The village hosts training sessions on saw safety and has a woodwork instructor on staff.
“It makes us different. It makes us stand out. You can come into Homewood and see all the different trees, species, roads that are lined (with trees) and you can tell it’s not cookie cutter America. It definitely has its own feel,” Doerr said. “Stuff like that drives us to make it different, to make it better. It motivates the crew. It’s a challenge and we like that.”