Honors Program


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Alston, K., Claborn, C., Erker, C., Isernhagen, B., Jameson, J., & Myers, J.. 2021. Arbor Day Foundation Programs: Analysis and Recommendations. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Copyright Alston, K., Claborn, C., Erker, C., Isernhagen, B., Jameson, J., & Myers, J. 2021


We are proposing the enhancement of the current Tree City USA program to include a special recognition program for high-achieving communities. These “Golden Oak” tree cities will be recognized each year based on a variety of metrics detailed in a new and more comprehensive program application. Recommendations:

● Updated application to include more information about both quantitative and qualitative insights

● Special recognition program awarding “Golden Oak” status to communities in village, town, city, and metropolis categories based on either percentile or benchmarking system

● A cumulative “Golden Oak” award given to the State that achieves the highest percentage of “Golden Oak” tree cities

● Expanded tree education through The Helicopter Project in partnership with Tree Campus Higher Education The Tree City USA and Tree Campus Higher Education programs established by the Arbor Day Foundation have had a huge impact in the planting and maintenance of and education about trees around the world. But with such an important mission, we wanted to develop a solution that would excite and motivate cities to do even more. The current Tree City application gathers all the necessary information to certify that applicants are meeting the requirements for each standard, but we believe expanding the application to include more information about yearly expenditures and accomplishments of specified goals could provide valuable insights to Arbor Day Foundation, as well as serve as a collaborative tool and motivator between communities. An updated application would identify the most efficient and successful Tree Cities for the year, and the information provided by these cities could be used to help communities who are wanting to know how they can do more. It will take a concerted effort to implement the additions we are proposing to both the Tree City USA and Tree Campus Higher Education programs. We believe it makes the most sense to continue to have applicants use the current application for 2021. The Arbor Day Foundation could use the rest of this year to fine-tune the exact insights they wish to receive from an updated application. When applicants submit their 2021 application, an immediate notification could be sent saying their application has been received, outline the new opportunities available to tree cities and campuses in 2022, and indicate a new application will be used in the coming year. The communities can then plan out their year for these new opportunities and there will be no surprises when it comes time to submit their application in 2022. Opening the invitation for special recognition of high-achieving tree cities determined by a more comprehensive application, as well as an expanded educational component for tree campuses could bring a new life to these well-respected programs and result in even more planting, nurturing, and celebration of trees.