By Kamen Kessler
Bath-DeWitt Connection Staff Reporter
DEWITT — Last year, the National Arbor Day Foundation named the City of DeWitt a Tree City USA for the 23rd time. This is a unique honor in times where industrial expansion dominates most growing cities in the United States.
So the question remains, is this environmental movement a cosmetic push or does DeWitt find the environment an important element of the city? The overwhelming answer was this is more than for just the looks, that the environmental focus is a part of the culture of DeWitt.
DeWitt has met the four standards to become a Tree City USA: A tree board or department, a tree care ordinance, a comprehensive community forestry program, and Arbor Day observance, according to DeWitt City Administrator Dan Coss.
Coss said, “You have to apply and as long as the requirements are met when they review you get to be named. This is something we are really proud of.”
Coss said, “We also spend the required two dollars per capita on tree planting and maintenance in the city. The commission we have reviews plans from the city to plant trees and determines if the conditions will be proper.”
But beyond just the trees, DeWitt as a whole offers a lot back to the environment. DeWitt is home to five quality parks offering residents anything from soccer fields and picnic tables, to play structures or just open green space to enjoy.
Although DeWitt Township is not Tree City USA because of the difficulty of applying with their size, they still have programs to participate in the environmental movement.
DeWitt Charter Township Manager Rod Taylor said, “We also participate in an Arbor Day celebration, as well as a few years ago had a report on open space preserving. We along with the city have numerous parks and assess both public and private green space.”
When looking at the surrounding region’s environmental impact Taylor said, “I feel like the region all does really well as a whole to helping the environment, but when looking around, overall I feel we are doing extremely well in comparison.”
DeWitt Township also offers a few programs for the residents, as well as some tips and contact information on their website. For example the township has a unique curb marker program in which they mark drains so that residents know where the water gets deposited.
When it comes to planning the township requires specific ordinances to be followed by developers for preserving open green space, according to Taylor.
Taylor said, “In some cases we can even give developers bonuses when they build environmentally friendly, and modern designs help them in doing so.”
This is no different in the City of DeWitt where city planner Tory Niewiadomski explained that they heavily looked into environmental awareness issues when it came to planning new businesses.
Niewiadomski said, “We have landscaping standards when it comes to business fronts, it they have land, and for parking lots we look to also incorporate landscaping there. Instead of just having flat cement, we look to have medians that include green life.”
Like Coss, Niewiadomski said, “It is something that we do feel is more than just for the cosmetic appeal of the city.”
The city offers programs to help the environment as well. For example, they offer snow, leaf, and brush pick up programs. Additionally, they street sweep five times a year to make sure that water deposited into the rivers is clean, and even have an electric car charging station, according to Coss.
Coss said, “When it comes to programs and requirements I feel like we really go above and beyond, especially with what state and national requirements are. A good way of putting it is that the environment is a part of the culture of this town and I feel residents really think so as well, from the numbers we get back.”
Each resident is required to pay $36 each quarter on recycling and trash services, so while participating is optional, the majority still choose to participate.
Coss said, “As of October 2015 95 percent, 1,516 households, participated in recycling. From October 2014-2015 we recycled and estimated 498,000 pounds.”
DeWitt resident Kathy Feldpausch feels like they could be doing even more when it comes to recycling.
“As someone born and raised in the country, I find the environment extremely important. The one major issue I have is that the recycling is not separated so some stuff that normally can be recycled isn’t.”
Additionally, residents have even formed a group to pursue a dog park being put in the city, because current parks do not allow dogs to be off of the leash. This is something strange when most cities have residents asking for industrial development, as opposed to a new park.
Coss said, “It speaks about our culture here that people take the environmental concerns, the same way we do, and that’s a good thing for DeWitt.”