Shelby Township once again becomes a Tree City, starts environmental program

By: Joshua Gordon | Shelby - Utica News | Published April 30, 2018

 From left, Shelby Township Supervisor Richard Stathakis; Clinton River Watershed Council Executive Director Anne Brasie; Shelby Township Parks, Recreation and Maintenance Director Joe Youngblood; Green Macomb Program Manager Gerry Santoro; and River Bends Park Coordinator James Gammicchia plant a tree April 27 outside the Burgess-Shadbush Nature Center for Arbor Day.

From left, Shelby Township Supervisor Richard Stathakis; Clinton River Watershed Council Executive Director Anne Brasie; Shelby Township Parks, Recreation and Maintenance Director Joe Youngblood; Green Macomb Program Manager Gerry Santoro; and River Bends Park Coordinator James Gammicchia plant a tree April 27 outside the Burgess-Shadbush Nature Center for Arbor Day.

Photo by Sarah Purlee

SHELBY TOWNSHIP — The tree is already part of the Shelby Township logo, and now township officials have announced a new initiative along with a commitment to being a Tree City USA to get the community involved in preserving trees.

As part of the township’s Arbor Day celebration April 27, Supervisor Richard Stathakis announced the Preserving a Better Place program, which uses resources from four programs as well as challenges residents to do their part.

The first part was Shelby Township becoming a Tree City USA once again. Parks, Recreation and Maintenance Director Joe Youngblood said the community used to be a Tree City, but sometime before he became parks director, the designation lapsed.

However, in looking to become a Tree City once again, Youngblood said he and his department realized that the community is already doing the things it needs to do, including maintaining trees, planting new ones and spending money on trees in the community.

“The funny thing was, we look back at the procedures and we are already doing these. We just had to fill out the paperwork,” Youngblood said. “It made me proud that we aren’t trying to say, ‘Let’s become a Tree City USA and do something different,’ but we have already been doing it.”

The other three pillars of the Preserving a Better Place program include working with Green Macomb on protecting the environment, working with Preserving America on preserving cultural and natural heritages, and working with the Clinton River Watershed Council.

Stathakis said the program provides a road map to ensure future generations can enjoy the same experience in the community that current residents enjoy.

Residents can visit the Preserving a Better Place website and look at ways to get involved.

“We have our mission and the pillars on how to execute it, but nothing really happens if the citizens of Shelby Township don’t get involved, so I’m asking all of them to get involved, whether you get involved in a cleanup day, planting a tree, downloading information on what you can do to plant a better garden or just enjoying one of our parks,” Stathakis said.

Shelby Township has around 1,110 acres of parkland in the community, and Youngblood said that his department has planted 50 trees this year and 55 last year in Gene Shepherd Park alone.

As part of the Arbor Day celebration, Youngblood and Stathakis planted a tree outside the Burgess-Shadbush Nature Center alongside representatives from Green Macomb and the Clinton River Watershed Council.

Youngblood said he is always looking for ways to put more trees in the community.

“There are so many benefits to having trees, and I think that is why people move out to Shelby Township — because of the trees we have,” he said. “We are always planting trees, and we have a commemorative tree program where residents can help. And we are always looking for new grants to apply for to plant trees. It is something in our park system we are proud of.”

Stathakis said the benefits range from providing a beautiful place to live to cleaning up pollution and putting more oxygen in the air. By starting the Preserving a Better Place program, he said it is basically an affirmation of what the community is already doing.

“Trees have always been a part of our heritage, and all we are trying to do is take what citizens already know and take the next step to make it a formal program,” he said. “And we want to make sure they know we believe in this mission as a board and our employees.”

For more information on the Preserving a Better Place program, visit www.shelbytwp.org/preserving.