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City of Lansing

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-Mayor Virg Bernero

Mayor Virg Bernero
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Department of Parks and Recreation

Clearly, there had been a well-defined appreciation for the importance of trees in Lansing for many years before the discovery of the Dutch elm disease. While the first "tree ordinance" dates from 1878, the organization of a specific city department to assume these responsibilities did not begin until nearly 40 years later.

Writing for a Chamber of Commerce Tree Planting Program in 1941, H. Lee Bancroft describes the founding of the forestry program in Lansing.

More than twenty-five years ago, a janitor and a fireman, at the Mayor's request, went out to trim a street tree which was hanging low. They returned a short time later ahead of a property owner with a shotgun... the city turned in its saws to the Park Board who appointed a City Forester {Bancroft}, who drew up an ordinance that was adopted and is still in force.

The forestry program has since been amended to add povisions for Dutch elm disease, boxelders, and traffic hazards. Copies have been requested by other departments and have been sent to many other cities.

Bancroft stated the basis for the program as:
"...costs for trimming or planting are cheaper on a street by street basis than on an individual basis...our funds come from general taxes and every taxpayer has something to show for his investment, which is growing more valuable to his property each year."

The first action of the new department was pruning and shaping small trees, removal of old, planting new. Later budgets uncluded feed, disease and insect control.

By 1953, Carl Fenner was able to confirm the original rationale of the department purpose in preserving and extending the street programs of Lansing.

It was reasoned and has proven to be true that trees could be trimmed, sprayed, repaired, old ones removed and new ones planted in a more uniform manner at lower cost, if administered through a municipal department equipped to do such work.

The operations were and still are financed by annual appropriations from the general fund through the Park Board budget. This method of financing had an important effect on street tree policy. Fenner explained that since the tax revenues came from residential and business property in approximately equal proportions, the per tree cost for residential street trees was low. Considering the small cost to the average homeowner, the policies have been based, first for the improvement of the street planting as a whole, and second for the desires of the individual property owner.

Public Service Department
601 E. South St.
Lansing, MI 48910
Ph: 483-4161
Fax: 483-4483

Monday - Friday
7:30 am to 4:00 pm
Emergency Response 24 hours