In last week’s article, we saw how pursuing and achieving Tree City U.S.A. certification forces a municipality to think strategically about its trees. In most cases, Tree City certification only affects municipal trees, such as trees in public parks, municipal land and within the right of way along public streets. Outside of this area, unless a community enforces a landscape ordinance, strategic thinking about trees is up to individual property holders.

The Arbor Day Foundation, which grants Tree City status, has a certification program for acreage beyond the reach of municipal governance, however. Similar to Tree City certification, Tree Campus U.S.A. certification has five requirements:

1. Campus Tree Advisory Committee: This committee must meet regularly and must include students, faculty, facility staff and a member of the community. By meeting this diversity requirement, this committee can have a widespread impact on the collective mind of the campus and community.

2. Campus Tree Care Plan: An acceptable tree care plan is comprehensive and ensures that trees are given full consideration in all campus planning.

3. Campus Tree Program and Budget: Ideally, the school should budget $3 per full-time student, but this money can include all maintenance. Any school that cares for its trees is probably already spending this money anyway. The program element, however, orients the spending to a concrete target.

4. Arbor Day Observance: Held on any designated day, this observance is an opportunity to raise tree awareness on campus. In the United States, Arbor Day is usually celebrated on the last Friday in April.

5. Service Learning Project. To me, this is the pinnacle of the certification process as schools already require service learning projects. Service projects combine the mind and the hands, the classroom and the world. Acceptable projects are nearly endless. One time, the sophomore class at Baptist Bible College planted trees in a Clarks Summit park. As a Clarks Summit tree commissioner, I not only taught the students how to plant the trees, I also explained to the students the socio-economic impact of their work.

Many readers of the Abington Suburban either work, study or know someone who works or studies at any of Lackawanna County’s colleges; namely Baptist Bible College, Keystone College, Marywood University, Penn State Worthington Scranton, Lackawanna College, Johnson College and the University of Scranton. These schools represent more than 660 acres of land and more than 15,000 students. Tree Campus U.S.A. certification would not only benefit the students enrolled in those schools, certification would benefit every resident of Lackawanna County. Additionally, since there are only nine schools in Pennsylvania that hold Tree Campus certification, Lackawanna County’s colleges could nearly double the state’s Tree Campuses.

Let’s start a race — which school will become the first certified Tree Campus U.S.A. in Lackawanna County? I am already working with one of these schools, so we are off to a head start! And, what about Abington Heights? With its seven properties and 3,300 students, Tree Campus U.S.A. certification would pay rich community dividends.

Joshua Arp is an ISA-certified Municipal Specialist, a Clarks Summit Tree Commissioner and an operator of a landscape maintenance business. He can be reached at josarhuap@aol.com.