DeWitt cover

Town of DeWitt Naturalist, Sustainability Coordinator, and Certified Arborist Christine Manchester is pleased to share this post about her Town’s new Urban Forest Management Plan.

In 2014, the Town of DeWitt received notification from the NYSDEC that our grant application to fund the creation of an urban forest management plan had been accepted. This was great news—but we quickly learned that writing the grant was the easiest part of the project. We thought that we were ready for a document that spelled out all the details, specifications, and standards. We wanted a document that would tell us specifically what we needed to do. However, we had some work of our own to do before engaging a consultant in writing the Plan.

A quick overview wearing an “Urban Forestry” lens might be helpful to understand our confusion. The Town Code had been revised in 2012 to include a Tree Chapter. This Code chapter established a very basic framework in regards to planting, pruning, and removing trees on Town property and referenced the DeWitt Urban Forestry Management Plan, which had not yet been created. Additionally, the Town Code chapter on trees clearly indicates necessary items that shall be included in the UFMP, like species selection, planting, pruning standard, care, and removal standards. However, in none of our guiding documents was there any justification for why we should manage trees.

bur oak in DeWitt

A 58-inch-DBH bur oak in DeWitt

After hiring a consultant we began to understand that what we wanted and what we needed was not the same thing. We discovered that we were trying to run before we could crawl or to hang curtains before the sheetrock, wiring, and plumbing was done. We needed to first create written justification for why we were managing trees on the public right-of-way, and we needed to clearly delineate responsibilities over managing the urban forest. These decisions needed to come from within the organization, not from the consultant.

The relevant actors that came together to make these responsibilities clear included the DeWitt Tree Committee that formed in 2006 and began a small scale annual tree planting effort; the DeWitt Highway Department, which is responsible for managing all the trees on the Town rights-of-way; the Parks Department, responsible for managing trees in Town parks and open spaces; and the Planning and Zoning Department and Planning Board, responsible for working with developers to plant trees after construction.

Once we did our in-house groundwork, the management plan was created with the guidance, consulting, and patience of Christopher Luley, Ph.D. from Urban Forestry LLC. The Plan creates specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic, and time-based goals (SMART). They are broken down into the following five basic categories: organizational, quality, quantity, education/outreach, and protection/enhancement. We are proud of our new DeWitt Urban Forest Management Plan and hope it will help your community in creating one that works for you. —Chris Manchester