SUMTER COUNTY, S.C. — It's National Arbor Day, and Sumter has officially been named a 2022 Tree City USA. This recognition comes from the Arbor Day Foundation in partnership with the US Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters.
"A tree is a joy forever," Nancy Moore shares.
Moore and her husband Lawrence are visiting Swan Lake Iris Gardens on this Arbor Day to enjoy the greenery.
"What can I say?" Lawrence shrugs. "It's much better than cement."
It's why Brock McDaniel, Sumter’s horticulturalist, works to maintain the trees.
"There's only 180 arboretum's globally that are a level two, and we're one of them," McDaniel explains.
That means Swan Lake Iris Gardens is recognized as an accredited arboretum by ArbNet. This means it has dedicated staff for the arboretum, it's open to the public at least one day a year, it has a focus on education and it meets the minimum number of tree types.
"We have approximately 280 species," McDaniel says. "We have over 100 signs documenting our species."
Which helps add to the list of qualifications the city has met to be recognized as a 2022 Tree City USA. To get this distinction, Sumter has to meet four criteria: it has a tree and landscape ordinance to preserve, protect, and grow the tree canopy, a Parks & Gardens department with staff dedicated to trees, it celebrates Arbor Day by planting trees in December when South Carolina weather is ideal for tree growth and it spends over $2 per capita on the urban trees program through improvement projects and equipment purchases.
"When you think of a great place to live, a great place to vacation, a great place to work, it's always a close connection to trees that's tied to that," McDaniel tells me. "So with Sumter, the reason why we have such a focus on trees is because we want to provide that close connection to nature to make Sumter the best place to live, work and vacation."
Keeping visitors like Cheryl Smith coming to see nature all the way from Greenville.
"It is a tourist attraction, so that's always helpful," Smith smiles.
Tywanna Kithcart from Columbia agrees.
"For me when I look oftentimes when I come in here see a lot of families, so it’s an it’s an outlet, it’s a place that they can walk around and visit and it does good for a city to me. Personally, I think that every city should have a space similar to this," Kithcart explains. "Not exactly like it but you know, something similar, so that people can come out and say ‘Hey, let's just go sit out for a little while, let’s go sit in the shade or let’s go sit in the sun,’ because everybody can’t afford to go to the beach or everybody doesn't like going to the beach."
Swan Lake also has a 2021 historic tree, which means it has been added to the list of famous trees, like the one standing in the University of South Carolina Horseshoe. A temporary sign is in place, and a permanent bronze plaque will be installed.