Puerto Rico – The municipality of Caguas in Puerto Rico has a unique recognition in the island. The city-valley is the only town in the island holding the Tree City USA recognition program, given by the Arbor Day Foundation. Caguas has been receiving this recognition for the past 10 years. For their efforts over the course of a decade, the municipality of Caguas received the Tree City Growth Award.
The most recent award ceremony took place last Friday, April 26, during Earth Day Week. Employees, school kids and representatives from state and federal agencies gathered at city hall to celebrate, for the 10th consecutive year, the Tree City recognition.
The first time Caguas obtained the certification was back in 2009, positioning itself as the only city in Puerto Rico earning such an important certification. There are certain requisites that a city needs to comply with in order to receive this recognition: have an urban forestry department -Department of Embellishment and Ornamentation in the city hall, have a Municipal Tree Board or Council, have an urban forestry ordinance, have an Urban Forest Management Plan,
have an assigned urban forestry budget, and celebrate an annual Arbor Day activity, that includes the participation and integration of forestry activities. The Department of Ornamentation and Beautification is responsible for improving and maintaining the green infrastructure of the city.
“We take this recognition very seriously. Caguas has always been recognized because of the efforts to clean and maintain the city, and now we have a tradition to also sustain and protect the trees in the city. They are important not only for the embellishment of the municipality, but also for our own wellbeing as citizens”, shared Omarf Ortega, Director of the Department of Embellishment and Ornamentation of Caguas.
At the activity, Caguas mayor William Miranda Torres, recognized the work done by Ortega and his team and invited attendees to participate in a tree planting activity that took place after the ceremony. Magaly Figueroa, USDA Forest Service International Institute of Tropical Forestry, State and Private Forestry, along with Alberto Mercado, Department of Natural Resources, helped with the tree planting. The Forest Service has been a replanting partner of Arbor Day Foundation. IITF has provided technical assistance since the first year Caguas received the title. IITF helped Caguas establish the Tree Board committee and mentored the employees at the Department of Embellishment and Ornamentation.
This award is a recognition to the reforestation efforts that the city has undergone. Caguas also approved a Public Order Ordinance meant for the conservation of the environment and the rescue of valuable green areas. These efforts also included the publication of a "Sowing Guide" for developers. As a Tree City, Caguas offers conferences, brochures, partnerships with private companies and school visits, among others. Caguas joins the other 3,310 communities in the United States that have been recognized for their efforts in the protection and conservation of local flora.