Long before Dan Mork served as mayor of Millwood, he walked the streets of the West Valley community under sprawling branches of maple and oak trees.
These days, from his desk at City Hall, Mork sounds more like an arborist than a government official as he describes the drawbacks and advantages of dozens of trees, many of which are deciduous to the Millwood area. Just north of municipal headquarters, an arboretum named after former Mayor Jeanne Batson stands as a symbol of the city’s enduring commitment to greenspace.
“Part of my job is to know about trees,” said Mork.
Tree-lined streets have been a trademark of Millwood for well over half a century. In 2007, the city formed a Tree and Beautification Board to advise municipal leadership on topics such as planting trees, preserving and improving greenspace and citywide landscaping. Photo by: Craig Howard
Millwood became the 67th Washington jurisdiction to earn status as an official Tree City in 2007. The designation, established by groups like the Arbor Day Foundation and the National Association of State Foresters, means setting aside a minimum of $2 per capita (or approximately $3,400 annually) for a community forestry program. The standing also requires forming a committee to coordinate tree management within the city. In November 2007, Mork named Debbie Lehinger, Vicki Naccarato and Charlie Peterson as the inaugural members of the Millwood Tree and Beautification Board.
“We have a lot of nice old trees here,” Peterson said shortly after being named to the board. “Our goal is to maintain that look and work to improve other areas in town.”
Bobbie Beese, a resident of Millwood for nearly 40 years, said the support shown by municipal leaders for trees and the environment has been a boon to the city, its citizens and those who visit here.
“It’s encouraging to know that we have people who care and are paying attention,” Beese said. “Whether it’s planting new trees or just recognizing what we have, it makes a difference to have people at City Hall who appreciate what’s important in Millwood.”
City Clerk Tom Richardson came to work for the city of Millwood in June 2008 after spending years with the city of Cheney. He has taken an active role with the Tree Board, encouraging the group to meet monthly. The gatherings are open to the public and typically occur on the second Monday of each month, a week after City Council meetings.
“I think having a group that cares for street trees does help the community,” Richardson said. “It adds not only to the aesthetic value but the property value as well. Everybody I talk to appreciates the trees we have here.”
The board is in the process of completing a community tree manual which will outline topics such as recommended species and planting advice. A citywide tree inventory is also in the works.
Mork said the value of forming a dedicated committee to oversee trees was reinforced when he talked to residents during street cleanup events sponsored by the city in the spring and fall.
“People who live here have preserved the trees just by the way they maintain their homes and their yards,” Mork said.
Before Avista begins the process of cutting back tree branches that interfere with electrical lines, representatives from the power company consult with the tree board to take recommendations about carrying out the chore in a way that reduces damage to foliage. Mork said there are cases in which a smaller tree can be planted as to not overlap power lines.
From planting pine trees to the south and west of a home to provide shade and reduce wind to holding Arbor Day celebrations that call attention to the arboretum, Mork said the emphasis on trees continues to be “an important part of what makes Millwood so unique.”
“We’re looking at a lot of areas, not just along Argonne or around City Hall,” he said. “We want to preserve what we have.”