Up With Trees! SMA Tulsa Conference Highlights

Up With Trees office
Up with Trees headquarters in Tulsa. Photo: upwithtrees.org

Recently, Council members such as Past President Andy Hillman, Secretary Steve Harris, Board Member James Kaechele, and myself (Blog Editor Michelle Sutton) attended the Annual Conference of the Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA). It was held November 13-14, 2017 in Tulsa, Oklahoma prior to the Partners in Community Forestry Conference on November 15-16.

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SMA conferences are open to and welcoming of anyone and everyone interested in urban forestry but tend to draw most from professional city foresters, parks superintendents, state UCF coordinators, urban forestry nonprofit staff, and the like. Many continue on to the “Partners” conference, organized by the Arbor Day Foundation, where they are joined by hundreds of community forestry professionals, volunteers, and activists.

A bus tour of Tulsa (human pop. ~ 400,000) highlighted the long and productive collaboration between the Tulsa Parks and Recreation Forestry Section and the nonprofit group Up with Trees, founded in 1976. Urban forestry in Tulsa was first formally recognized in 1992; its longtime city forester, Mike Perkins, recently retired from the City and went to work as operations manager for Up with Trees. Arborist Dave Zucconi then took the city forester position, rising from the ranks of Parks and Recreation. Tulsa benefits from the longtime positive working relationship between Perkins and Zucconi, who gave a very animated tour and are rightfully proud of their accomplishments and those of their colleagues.

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Mike Perkins (left) and Dave Zucconi (right)

Tulsa UF Value
Data per the 2016 Urban Forest Master Plan

The City of Tulsa’s urban forest includes over 5.2 million public and private trees. In the last four decades, Up with Trees has planted over 30,000 trees at more than 500 sites throughout Tulsa. They maintain over 20,000 trees. One of Tulsa’s goals per the 2016 Urban Forest Master Plan is to increase the City’s overall canopy cover from 26% to 30% over the next 20 years; this seems entirely plausible given the energy, funding, and synergy between the City and Up with Trees.

Perhaps for me the highlight of the tour was touring the public arboretum at the City’s Woodward Park, which features mostly native trees and shrubs; eighty of the ninety-six taxa of trees and shrubs present are natives or native cultivars found in the eastern forest region. The arboretum contains four Oklahoma State Champion Trees: a dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides), a yellow-fruited American holly (Ilex opaca ‘Aurea’), a blue ash (Quercus quadrangulata), and a coliseum maple (Acer cappadocium).

State champion dawn redwood Tulsa Woodward arboretum
The Oklahoma State Champion dawn redwood. Photo: Michelle Sutton

Signage for memorial, dedication, and sponsored tree plantings is done with wood and has a vintage feel about it. Why use wood? According to the Up with Trees website, “Wood production is one of Oklahoma’s largest industries, our signs are locally manufactured by our volunteers, wooden signs are less expensive to replace, wooden signs are safer than metal for drivers in a collision, wood is biodegradable, but the most important reason is: wood is a renewable resource.”

wooden signs
upwithtrees.org

In addition to a thriving urban forest, Tulsa is notable for its extensive Art Deco architecture. This came about because peak Art Deco (1925-1935) coincided with the era when Tulsa’s oil barons made their fortunes. Each wanted to build a more elaborate building than the next guy. As a result, there are municipal buildings, massive churches, tiny gas stations, a train station … all sorts of buildings that are Art Deco down to the fine details. It’s really quite a treat if you like that era of style and architecture.

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Tulsa Art Deco Museum Lobby. Photo: Michelle Sutton

Next year’s SMA Conference will be in Irvine, California on November 5-6 (don’t forget to get an absentee ballot, as Election Day is November 6). The Partners in Community Forestry Conference will follow on November 7-8. Scholarship assistance may be available from the Council, depending on next year’s funding picture—stay tuned.

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