Jeremy Barrick is Deputy Chief of Forestry, Horticulture, and Natural Resources for the City of New York Department of Parks and Recreation and a graduate of the Municipal Forestry Institute. This is adapted from a profile of Jeremy that appeared in City TREES.
Jeremy, can you tell us about your education and career trajectory? Jeremy Barrick: Growing up in a small town in Minnesota that had a city forester, I have always been interested in city trees. After passing through a couple of different declared majors in college, I came to my senses and settled on my boyhood dreams of managing city trees; who wouldn’t want to drive around town in a truck with a black lab and look at trees all day?
After graduating from the University of Minnesota with a BS in Urban and Community Forestry and interning with several communities, including my hometown, it was off to the bright lights of the Big City as a borough forester in the Bronx. While I was indeed driving around in a pick-up, I didn’t have a lab riding shot gun and the Bronx was a far cry from small-town Minnesota.
For a time I ventured into the world of consulting arboriculture with a respected tree care company in Minneapolis before returning to the Big City again as the arborist with the NYC Parks & Recreation Capital Design and Construction Division. After three years of working behind enemy lines with architects, landscape architects, engineers, and project managers, I became the Deputy Chief of Forestry, Horticulture, and Natural Resources for the City of New York Department of Parks and Recreation.
In this position, I assist in the executive management of our forestry and horticulture programs which include our tree planting program, green infrastructure design and construction, trees and sidewalks program, citywide horticulture and tree preservation policy, and the citywide nursery.
How has your involvement in the NYSUFC been meaningful to you? JB: I attended MFI on a scholarship from the NYSUFC and that has been the catalyst in my involvement with the SMA. Many of our Foresters are members of the NYSUFC and several of them are very involved. The NYSUFC Conferences and Workshops are great venues for professional development and we are always sure to send as many people as possible to continue to advance our program and keep current with regional and industry trends.
Can you talk about your MFI experience? JB: SMA first caught my attention at the 2008 ISA conference in Providence, Rhode Island when I attended the SMA session on the last day and learned of all of the great programs like MFI and the Arborist Exchange. I joined SMA shortly thereafter and attended MFI in 2012; I can’t say enough about that experience. We budgeted to send two directors from our program to MFI the following year and aspire to do so every year.
The magical week in February on the frozen plains of Nebraska that is MFI really helped to orient me in my leadership and management of both our forestry and horticulture programs. Hardly a week passes without some reflection upon the training and experience of MFI, and I frequently reach out to professional contacts I made there. SMA has been great way to connect with other municipal arborists and gain insight into new approaches.
What aspects of municipal arboriculture interest/excite you most? JB: I think the greatest thing about municipal arboriculture is how diverse a skill set one has to have. Managing an expansive resource with competing interests provides for very few dull moments, and I really enjoy the human aspect. It’s been said that urban and community forestry is 85% people and 15% technical and I couldn’t agree more. I also argue that it’s not rocket science—it’s much more complicated. All things planting, maintaining, preserving, risk management, and emergency response impact citizens greatly, and everything we do comes back to people.
Aside from the communications aspect, I do get excited about the technical side of our field. For the past few years we’ve been focused on emergency response, which proved valuable when Super Storm Sandy struck. While every aspect of our program is constantly evolving, we’re currently focused on preservation and risk management.
What aspects of municipal arboriculture do you find most challenging? JB: I think the most challenging aspect of municipal arboriculture is balancing preservation and risk management. Obviously, we want to maximize the benefits of trees, but we must also minimize the risk and cost of maintaining those benefits. Another layer of complexity is honoring the aesthetic and emotional values of trees.
What do you like to do in your free time?
JB: Living and working in New York City can pose many challenges, but it really is the greatest city in the world. I love nothing more than being a resident tourist with my wife Kelly and our two children Olivia and Rowan. We live in a sleepy little neighborhood in Queens and often barbeque and spend hours in the park. We love live concerts and going to games. We have a hard time staying home on the weekend and often find ourselves wandering up and down the eastern seaboard taking in everything that the region has to offer.