NYC ReLeaf’s COUNT TREES Workshop, Part I

NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver gave the keynote address.
NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver gave the keynote address.

With the exception of Sumana Serchan’s reflections, this two-part post was written by NYS DEC Division of Lands and Forests Outreach Coordinator Nina Medakovich. Part I brings us workshop highlights. Part II delves into the power of letter-writing advocacy and includes an advocacy template letter written by Nina. Thank you, Nina and Sumana.   

NYC ReLeaf’s Spring workshop “COUNT TREES: Why Do a Tree Census?” was held on March 6th at Brooklyn Borough Hall to highlight the value of collecting and analyzing data on urban trees. With the NYC Parks Department preparing to undertake the decennial Street Tree Census this summer, NYC ReLeaf considered it a timely and relevant topic.

The workshop aimed to convey why collecting data on urban trees is so crucial to survival and growth of the urban forest, investigate federal research on urban forests, reflect on the success of and lessons learned by NYRP’s Tree Giveaway program, equip volunteers with tree advocacy skills, and introduce the 2015 Street Tree Census.

NYC Releaf workshop
Settling in for the workshop. Photo Courtesy Million Trees NYC

Commissioner of the NYC Parks Department Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP opened the day with his inspiring keynote address.

NYRP Director of Urban Forestry Mike Duran-Mitchell kicked off the workshop with a reflection on NYRP’s effort in the MillionTrees Inititative, the Tree Giveaway Program.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams spoke on the value of urban trees in Brooklyn. Photo Courtesy MillionTrees NYC
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams spoke on the value of urban trees in Brooklyn. Photo Courtesy MillionTrees NYC

Afterwards, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams dropped in to say a few words of support to the ReLeaf community.

Dave Nowak, Research Forester and Project Leader at the U.S. Forest Service, remotely presented his findings on the positive impact of trees in urban areas.

NYC Parks Street Tree Census Coordinator Jaclyn Shanley presents on the new data collection tactics, technology, and outreach methods of the 2015 Street Tree Census. Photo courtesy MillionTrees NYC
NYC Parks Street Tree Census Coordinator Jaclyn Shanley presents on the new data collection tactics, technology, and outreach methods of the 2015 Street Tree Census. Photo courtesy MillionTrees NYC

NYC Parks Dept Jaclyn Shanley introduced the 2015 Street Tree Census and its methods of data collection and community engagement.

Environmental educator Nancy Wolf and tree advocate Paul Kerzner led the crowd in a letter-writing activity to strengthen advocacy skills. More about this, including a sample advocacy letter, here. This was geared toward NYC residents but all NY urban forest advocates will find this template helpful.

Co-Founder and Director of TreeKIT Philip Silva closed the workshop with a presentation on TreeKIT, a mapping tool which the Parks Department will be utilizing for the 2015 Street Tree Census.


NYC Parks and Recreation Urban Forester Sumana Serchan shares this account of her experience at the workshop:

NYC Urban Forester Sumana Serchan
NYC Urban Forester Sumana Serchan

“Borough Hall,” the train operator announced. I made my way to the atrium on the second floor with its giant Greek pillars and marble floors. It was set up for the “COUNT TREES” workshop sponsored by Region 2 ReLeaf, NYS Urban Forestry Council, New York State of Opportunity, and NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.

Professionals in the natural resources field, including many of my fellow foresters from NYC Parks and Recreation, and residents/tree advocates of NYC had gathered on this special day “to fulfill curiosity about the upcoming NYC tree census.” Dynamic speakers made this workshop highly informative.

Dexter Locke, Doctoral Student in the Graduate School of Geography, Clark University
Dexter Locke, Doctoral Student in the Graduate School of Geography, Clark University

Prior to the workshop I only knew about NYRP (New York Restoration Project) as a non-profit partner in the MillionTrees NYC project. At the workshop, I learned about NYRP’s work process and challenges it faces in keeping track of trees planted on private properties. I was excited to learn about NYRP’s use of ESRI tapestry layer in a recent tree mortality study led by Dexter Locke.

I was excited to attend a virtual seminar with David Nowak and learn about the ten environmental benefits of trees. David also stressed climate change and how that will impact our decisions on tree species selection in the future.

We learned a new skill – that of advocating for public trees. In the afternoon, the participants were guided to write letters advocating for public trees and handed stamped envelopes to send to public officials.

I also learned about the use of TreeKit, a mapping technology based on traditional triangulation methods to be used in the upcoming tree census. The census is going to use the latest technology in the form of smart phone apps merged with TreeKit while also allowing flexibility in the use of paper forms. In either form, they promise to be user-friendly and provide an opportunity for the public to learn about their natural capital.

For me the workshop provided an opportunity to step back and look at the broad picture of our work as urban foresters and see the connections among urban tree planting, maintenance, census, research, policy, and management. It was also an opportunity to network with professionals working at NYRP, Borough Forestry, Gowanus Canal Conservancy, and the organizing committee.

 

 

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