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By Donna Cipolloni

Tester staff writer

For the 25th year, the National Arbor Day Foundation designated Naval Air Station Patuxent River a Tree City USA.

NAS Pax River Commanding Officer Capt. Ben Shevchuk accepted the award on behalf of the installation from a Maryland Department of Natural Resources state forester during a ceremony May 15 that also included a tree planting.

“We planted a native Willow Oak near the pavilion playground across the street from the Beach House,” said the installation’s Conservation Director Kyle Rambo, who has been with the Pax River environmental division since 1981. “That’s a wide open grassy area and the plan is to eventually plant a ring of trees so as the sun moves around it throughout the day, there will always be some shade for parents to sit, kids to play and families to have a picnic.”

Communities achieve Tree City USA status by meeting four core standards of sound urban forestry management: maintaining a tree board or department, having a community tree ordinance, spending at least $2 per capita on urban forestry and celebrating Arbor Day.

In addition to the aesthetic reasons for planting trees, there are many practical ones.

“Trees increase real estate value; reduce heating/cooling bills and erosion; produce oxygen and sequester carbon; filter airborne particulates and contaminants; provide wildlife habitat and supply commercial wood products,” Rambo said.

Rambo credited the Mattapany Rod & Gun Club as an early conservation presence at Pax River, explaining how the organization, at one time, hired a fulltime game warden/conservation officer and recruited volunteers who planted many acres of trees and wildlife plantings. With his background in forestry and wildlife, Rambo has continued that tradition with refinements in species selection and placement.

“We try to plant native species of trees or, at least, proven cultivars that will grow well in our Southern Maryland climate and show no invasive or nuisance properties and traits,” he said. “We’ll continue our plan to replace all dead or dying trees and the methodical assessment of potential areas for new plantings.”

Tree City USA is a National Arbor Day Foundation program in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service; Urban & Community Forestry; and the National Association of State Foresters.

There are more than 135 million people living in more than 3,400 communities that are currently designated a Tree City USA.