Kent: The Original Tree City
I get a lot of questions about what exactly the tree city designation means so I thought I’d try to offer up what I’ve learned about that city tag line.
First of all, today Tree City designations are established by the National Arbor Foundation. To receive the designation a city must:
- Celebrate Arbor Day
- Spend $2 per capita on tree services in the city
- Have a Tree Board or Commission that advises on urban forest issues
- Have a Tree Ordinance that seeks to protect city trees.
There are thousands of cities that receive this designation, including the City of Kent. Kent has received the national arbor foundation recognition for 21 straight years. [click here to see the list of Ohio tree cities]
What’s different for Kent is that it actually was designated as the Tree City USA long before the National Arbor Day Foundation began handing out the title. It was actually way back on February 14, 1949 that Kent was proclaimed the original tree city of Ohio.
Here’s what the resolution said:
Resolution No. 1364
Whereas, the City of Kent, State of Ohio, is the home of Davey Tree Expert Company, a national organization interested in the preservation and development of trees and the beautification of cities by proper tree planting; and
Whereas, the City of Kent has for many years been interested in trees within the corporate limits and has established a shade tree commission which has accomplished the planting of new trees within the City and has taken steps for the preservation of other trees within the city limits; and
Whereas, the City of Kent is considered a model city in the manner that it has maintained it’s public trees upon the streets and public grounds of the city; and
Whereas, it would be for the general welfare to have Kent known by the name of “tree city.”
Now Therefore, it is hereby resolved by the Council of the City of Kent, State of Ohio, that the City of Kent be known as “The Tree City” of the state of Ohio, and the Clerk is hereby authorized to spread this resolution upon the minutes of this body and proper offices of this city are hereby authorized to take such steps as may be necessary to inform the General Public of the action of this body.
Passed: February 14, 1949
Chris Miller, President of Council
The influence of John Davey, founder of the Davey Tree Expert Company, was critical in Kent’s history. His book, “The Tree Doctor” published in 1901 provided the foundation for the modern science of tree care and turned out to be a terrific business success. Riding the success of that book the Davey company grew and John Davey became known as the founder of tree surgery. Later, Martin Davey went on to be the Governor of the State of Ohio in 1932. Lucky for us, the Davey family and Davey company never forgot its Kent roots and has made Kent its global headquarters.
So while we may just be one of many cities with this designation we should be proud that the national program is in large measure a piece of Kent’s legacy. On a number of different levels Kent can actually take credit for starting all this tree city business. A lot of people wave those foam fingers around proclaiming themselves as #1 but in this case we truly are #1. While the uniqueness of the designation has diminished through the years, its importance has not and it serves as just another example of how Kent led the way to what is now a national phenomenon.
About John Davey
When John was born in Somersetshire, England, in June 6, 1846, it is highly probable that the birth of a child was celebrated because it meant that there would soon be another set of hands to help with the farm work. And help with the farm work he did, at his father’s side, absorbing a work ethic and fount of agricultural knowledge from the senior Davey. The iconic message he received from his father, “do it right or not at all,” became a guide for the conduct of his business, and his drive to understand plants was most likely rooted in the soil that he worked alongside his father.
In his teen years, Davey moved from his home to do an apprenticeship in greenhouse management and used the time to learn to read and write. He associated himself with a church congregation, and though it became adept at public speaking. He quickly earned the respect of people who were in a position to help him, and in his early twenties might have chosen a career in the clergy or a similarly respectable profession.
Instead, at the age of 27 he immigrated to the United States and followed a course that paralleled that of many other immigrants: menial work, continuing education, a slightly better job and finally his own business. Along the way he married and started a family, expanded the geographic and service reach of his business, and became a noted lecturer and pamphleteer.
He didn’t confine his energies to the tree business only, however. He campaigned for women’s suffrage and against alcohol. He wrote tracts on politics, religion, birds and farm problems. But always central was his crusade to improve the care of trees.
The story of John Davey is one of a man who through a commanding intelligence, great strength of character and a passionate dedication to tree preservation created a company that is still going strong 125 years after he founded it.