The city's tree commission announced recently that Birchbark Trail residents Tim and Dixie Ludick (Woods of Aurora subdivision) are the recipients of the 2013 citizen involvement award.

To qualify for the award, the recipient must demonstrate excellence in the areas of color, form, texture and the impact on the appearance of the property.

"What made the Ludick property so impressive was the effort employed to stop erosion and preserve the natural conservation of the topography," said tree commission committee chairwoman Deborah Davis.

"When my husband and I were looking to buy a house in Aurora we fell in love with the house [250 Birchbark], but I had real misgivings about the lot," explained Dixie Ludick.

"In fact the neighbors behind us had complained to the builder because water was running down the incline behind our house and creating a swampy marsh in his back yard. Tim walked the property very thoughtfully and said, 'Honey, I think I can fix that.'

"We bought the house and he immediately built a retaining wall of stones and brick pavers, then because it was too steep and muddy to use a Bobcat, he dug a pond by hand."

Ludick has worked on his yard every year as the topography shifts and changes.

"We had a microburst that uprooted several trees which damaged the liner in the pond and I had to start over," he said. "The key is to keep in mind that Mother Earth has a personality as dynamic as ours. She is always changing and growing.

"Like a Donald Ross golf course, you want to use what natural materials she presents and try not to insult her with anything artificial."

Dr. James Tomko, a member of the tree commission, commented on that notion when he pointed out that he was impressed with the variety of species of native plants that the Ludicks use.

"This didn't just happen overnight; the whole yard is an astonishing array of native plants, and you can tell it has been nurtured over the years," Tomko said.

"HIS COMBINATION of water features and plants attract birds and other wildlife. You wouldn't expect to see something like this right in the middle of a residential neighborhood."

The Ludicks' residence also has been named a wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation.

Marty Sickinger, another committee member, liked the fact that Ludick uses no pesticides, and the result is a holistic garden that attracts butterflies and birds, and also controls storm water runoff, which has always been an issue for Aurora.

She said, "The purpose of the award is to call attention to the fact that homeowners can do a lot to protect the environment and preserve green space and in so doing add value to their property.

"The committee is exploring the idea of a home and garden show to invite others to see what Aurora is doing to enhance the quality of life in our area.

"With the addition of our new arborist, Ben Askren, we hope to encourage residents to seek assistance for any questions regarding the trees in the right of way area between the lawn and the street. Ben is very knowledgeable and very approachable."

Sickinger also liked the fact that Ludick has some historic trees, including nurturing a sapling taken from the parent tree that Robert E. Lee and U.S. Grant sat under at Appomattox when they signed the agreement to end the Civil War.

"We are exploring how we can introduce more historic trees to this area, and the arborist is involved with the Moebius center in labelling many of the species at that site, Sickinger said. "The tree commission is working diligently to serve the residents of the city and encourage them to preserve their own green space."

Anyone with questions for the tree commission should call Madeline Marazzi at the parks and recreation department at 330-562-4333.