Due to the inspired leadership of newly hired Waverly Light and Power General Manager, Glenn Cannon, Waverly Trees Forever began in May 1991. "I was hired, in part, to operate aggressive energy efficiency and renewable energy programs for Waverly," says Cannon. At that time, WL&P committed $100,000 for tree planting and education for a five-year period. Locally raised matching funds of $5,000 per year were added to jump start many tree planting projects.
In 1991 Waverly Trees Forever was part of a special program of the statewide non-profit Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. Cannon found it to be "a perfect model for our size community," because it allowed a local group of citizens to operate a program that combined local knowledge with assistance from the statewide Trees Forever organization. "Most of our money is returned to the community," Cannon added.
Since 1995 Trees Forever has become an independent non-profit statewide organization with affiliates in many Iowa communities. Headquartered in Marion, Iowa, trained professionals provide advice to local organizations. Trees Forever has received national attention for the organization's dedication to tree planting, species diversity, and public education.
Waverly Light and Power renewed its financial commitment to Waverly Trees Forever in 1996 and again in 2001 with $50,000 for each of the five-year periods. In 1991, Department of Natural Resources Urban Forester John Walkowiak inspected Waverly's street trees (those on city property between the street and sidewalk) and through a sampling technique, estimated their value at $8,825,624.
Waverly Trees Forever was one of the first Trees Forever affiliates and has won several awards from the State of Iowa's Urban Forestry Council. They include:
- Outstanding Volunteer: Kathy Sundstedt, Chair, Waverly Trees Forever
- Outstanding Professional: Tab Ray, Director, Waverly Parks and Recreation Department
- Outstanding Utility Partner: Waverly Light and Power
- Outstanding Media Partner: Waverly Newspapers, Greg Sieleman and Don Huston, editors
- Outstanding Youth Project: John Verdon and the WSR Science Club
- Outstanding School Project: Washington Irving Elementary
Since 1992, Waverly had been recognized as a tree City USA by the National Arbor Day Foundation. To win this award, a community must meet four requirements: (1) have a forestry department or City Tree Board (2) possess a tree ordinance (3) spend a minimum of $2 per capita on tree resource management (4) celebrate Arbor Day.
Group Membership and Leadership
The first officers included co-chairs Rick Deike and Kathy Sundstedt with Laurel Whitcome as secretary-treasurer. Succeeding Rick Deike was the late Keith Lovejoy as co-chair. Currently Kathy Sundstedt is chair. The present treasurer is Tab Ray, Director of Parks and Recreation. Secretary is Barb Hess, who succeeded Jackie Juhl and Elizabeth Hartman. John Verdon, WSR High School science teacher, coordinated annual tree sales programs between the High School Science Club and Trees Forever until his retirement in 2002. Jim Anderson, Wartburg groundskeeper, brought a wealth of practical experience and knowledge to the group. Brad Schmidt, linesman with WL & P has been instrumental in establishing the "Tree Trade" program, and maintaining the nursery. Other members include: Kara and Emily Buss, Merwin Briggs, Phil Juhl, Barb Corson, Dave Carlson, Gene Rathje, and Paul Cheville.
WSR High School Science Club
A partnership between Waverly Trees Forever and the WSR High School Science Club began in 1992, increasing the club's profile and fundraising ability. Trees Forever provided reduced tree prices to residents who planted trees in energy efficiency locations.
Hundreds of students have been involved in tree sales and planting. Between 1992-2002, over 5,000 trees were sold and planted by Science Club members.
Dedication to species diversity, a wide variety of unusual species were introduced to Waverly's urban forest, including gingko, tulip tree, lacebark elm, American hornbeam, Amur corktree, and Kentucky coffee tree.
The Tree Trade program, begun in 1999, "trades" trees planted under power lines for those better placed. Trees are removed and homeowners select another tree to be planted in another location on their projerty.
Community Crisis Shows Interest in Trees
Not long after the inception of Waverly trees Forever, a new civic center was to be built in downtown Waverly. In 1991, a large bur oak tree, estimated to be 192 years old, was threatened with removal for the center's parking lot. Rick and Elizabeth Hartman became spokespersons for the tree and organized a fund raiser for it's preservation. After consultation with an arborist, a landscape architect and DNR forestry personnel, the parking lot was designed around the tree. Over $10,000 was raised to create a special structure around the tree. The structure includes underground tubes which allow oxygen to get to the roots and remove excess water. This project shows the community's commitment to urban forestry. A plaque in the Civic Center recognizes donors.
In February 1993 nine large maple trees lining the north and west sides of the Bremer County Courthouse were removed. Though some were in poor condition, a public outcry ensued, which included large signs which mysteriously appeared on the courthouse lawn. Courthouse employees and others set up a fund to help buy replacement trees.
Other crisis over tree removals have occurred when businesses have removed all the trees prior to construction of new structures. In some instances no trees have been left on the property or replaced.