Urbana plans for future by educating community

By Melissa Silverberg

As the city of Urbana continues to commemorate its year-long 175th birthday celebration, residents and government officials are thinking about the future by focusing on sustainability and the environment.

Urbana has had a residential recycling program since 1986, said Rodney Fletcher, environmental manager for the city.

“The recycling project has been around for a long time due to public participation,” Fletcher said. “The residents of Urbana are responding in a positive manner.”

The city is planning a mailing to all residents with information about sustainability and recycling and how the two issues depend on each other, Fletcher said.

“We are very concerned about the environment,” he added. “It is one of the city’s top priorities. We believe that’s a critical part of our job and responsibility.”

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    A program to help residents properly manage and dispose of household products that contain mercury is also in planning for Urbana. If put into landfills or the environment, mercury could be harmful to ecosystems, as well as to people’s health.

    Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn visited the city of Urbana on Monday afternoon as part of the city’s celebration of Earth Week. Quinn honored the city for its long-time dedication to the Tree City USA program over the past several decades.

    “We are here on the eve of Earth Day saluting the city of Urbana,” Quinn said. “We need to make every day Earth Day.”

    Quinn, Mayor Laurel Prussing and other city representatives spoke about the Tree City program and other environmental initiatives in Urbana.

    “We have people that really care about quality of life in Urbana,” Prussing said. “We were green before it became so widely accepted.”

    Urbana was one of 16 charter cities in the Tree City program, which now encompasses thousands of communities, said Mike Brunk, Urbana city arborist.

    Tree City USA has four main requirements, which include spending $2 per capita on trees, establishing a tree board or having a city arborist, celebrating Arbor Day and having a tree ordinance. The tree ordinance guides the community on how to care for its trees, Brunk said.

    The city of Urbana will be celebrating Arbor Day on Friday, he said.

    Urbana has 120 trees per linear mile of street, making it one of the most densely populated cities for trees in the country, Quinn said.

    “Trees attract people, people attract tax dollars and tax dollars make a community work,” said Brunk. “So trees really help support the community.”

    Aside from recognition for being involved in the Tree City program, Urbana also helps run the landscape recycling center for the city of Champaign, the city of Urbana and Champaign County, Brunk said.

    “It’s important to recognize these achievements,” Quinn said.

    He added that the state of Illinois was the first to have an environmental article in its constitution, meaning that every person had a duty and a right to a healthy environment, both now and in the future.