By Lori Brockelbank, NYSUFC Treasurer and Certified Arborist/Municipal Specialist, Wendel Companies
The first-ever Western NY CommuniTREE Stewardship Program instruction has come to a close for most of the participants, but the learning and experience continues. You can read more about the program’s mission and partners on this earlier blog post. Out of the 20 people that initially signed up for the course, 13 completed the classroom requirements.
At the conclusion of the classroom sessions, I will admit I had my doubts about whether the students had truly received enough training to go out on their own. I know personally I learn more when I get my hands dirty and I am in the field applying the classroom instruction. A few of the students expressed the same concerns; for this reason each student is required to volunteer 10 hours of supervised field time doing tree planting and/or small tree pruning in a variety of places throughout the City of Buffalo. This field work is a great chance for students to get further coaching and ask questions.
So what have we learned during our first round of WNY CommuniTREE training? First, communication is crucial for all participants. We set up a Facebook page with events posted and sent out emails for reminders and events, but we found that not everyone has a Facebook account or checks their emails frequently. In the future we will be trying to find other means of communication so everyone receives time-sensitive information.
Second, timing is everything when it comes to classroom instruction. The biggest challenge was tree identification and planting. We held the classes either in the winter or at the beginning of spring, and although it was a mild winter, we could not get outside to do as much hands-on training as we had hoped to provide. However, with springtime we were able to have more hands-on training. While the students were pruning we were also covering tree ID and how pruning could affect certain species. In addition, during pruning we discussed any observable diseases, insects, or defects on the trees.
Third, and most importantly, we learned there are individuals in our community that are very passionate about the trees in their community. These individuals are eager to make a difference and to share the knowledge they have gained. It is our intent to continue with projects and for the students to continue with their training.
We have laid the foundation for the WNY CommuniTREE Stewardship Program and speaking from personal experience, I am excited to see where it will go and how many communities will benefit from the trained volunteers.