Just in time for Arbor Day (Pop quiz: When is Arbor Day?), the Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources has recognized 186 Illinois communities with the highly coveted “Tree City USA” designation. The honor is bestowed for “managing local community forest resources for enhanced citizen safety and welfare.” Tree City USA “promotes tree planting and care programs in urban areas and calls public attention to the economic, health and aesthetic benefits trees offer.”

To qualify, a community must designate an authority to manage the forest, have a tree ordinance on the books, expend at least $2 per resident on its forestry program, and conduct an annual Arbor Day tree planting ceremony.

Oak Park, which has a village forester (Jim Semelka) and a Forestry Commission, has been a Tree City now for 26 years, River Forest for 12. Elmhurst seems to be the longest standing member of the club at 30, followed by Brookfield (29) and LaGrange (27). Berwyn has been a Tree City for 23 years.

Now for the pop quiz: Apparently the date varies, state by state, but Illinois celebrates it on the last Friday of April, which this year falls on the 30th. The day was founded by J. Sterling Morton of salt and arboretum fame.

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