AUGUSTA – Lewiston and Auburn received 2003 Tree City USA awards at the Maine Arbor Week Celebration on May 21 at the Pine State Arboretum. Speakers included Patrick McGowan, commissioner of the Department of Conservation, and Patrick Colwell, speaker of the Maine House of Representatives.

Lewiston and Auburn joined 12 other Maine cities being recognized. Farmington, Kennebunkport and Westbrook have been in the program for 27 years. David Griswold, chairman, and Dean Bailey, immediate past chairman of the Lewiston-Auburn Community Forest Board, accepted the awards.

The National Arbor Day Foundation recognizes Tree Cities nationwide. In order to qualify, a city must have a tree board, a community tree ordinance, a community forestry program and an Arbor Day observation and proclamation.

The Lewiston-Auburn Community Forest Board was recognized as unique in Maine. The board has representation from both cities and is a model for collaboration across political boundaries.

The volunteer board has no budget, but has successfully accessed grant money. It enjoys in-kind support from city government, including Lewiston city arborist Steve Murch, Auburn city arborist Mike Morin, the Auburn Recreation Department and the Lewiston Finance Department.

Tree City recognition has been a goal of the Community Forest Board since its inception in the fall of 2001. Community forests and urban trees improve the quality of life, even in a state that has the highest percentage of forested acres in the country. Recognition will increase community awareness of the value of trees in the urban environment.

The board has partnered with city schools and libraries to identify “Reading Trees” and develop a reading list of books involving trees. Board members have made presentations at schools and provided plaques for the special trees.

In 2003 the board obtained a Maine Forest Service Project Canopy grant that assisted 40 homeowners plant trees near city streets.

A recent grant will allow the board to work with each city’s planning department to identify two areas in the inner city where trees will be established. Tree planting will also continue, focusing on the older sections of the cities. An evening workshop series is also being planned.

The board received two ivory silk tree lilacs at the ceremony. Plans will be developed to plant the trees on either side of the Androscoggin, near the Longley Bridge or Railroad Park. Tree City plaques, flags and gateway street signs will be displayed in the near future.

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