Image by Elizabeth Jeegin Colley for the Prospect Park Alliance

Round 15 of the Environmental Protection Fund grants for urban forestry related activities will open later in 2019. Here on the blog, we continue to showcase work that emerged from successful grants and give advice to future applicants from the folks behind those successful grants.

Prospect Park contains Brooklyn’s largest indigenous forest and sustains more than 10 million visits a year. Its 536 acres include woodland, lawn, wetlands, lake, meadow, zoo, ice rink, athletic fields, and more. It’s managed by the Prospect Park Alliance in collaboration with NYC Parks. Prospect Park Alliance Director of Landscape Management John Jordan had several key roles to play in the preparation of the Alliance’s grant application for Environmental Protect Fund monies, grants that are managed and allocated by NYSDEC.

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The application was for a tree inventory and comprehensive tree management plan that would be done by the Davey Resource Group (DRG). “The Park is so large and has so many trees that we divided it into three regions,” Jordan says. “My role was to work out the most logical divisions and get maps created for them. I also coordinated with NYC Parks to make sure that our data would align with NYC Parks’ forestry management system—that our data could be readily transported in and out. And I worked out the data fields for the inventory based on the information I knew we needed.”

The Alliance’s Round 13 EPF grant award covered the first two sections of the Park, and a Round 14 grant will cover the third section, which will be performed by DRG this spring. “We had an excellent grant writer in our former Director of Government and Community Relations, Matthew Ojala, and Michelle Higgins, the EPF fund grants administrator at NYSDEC, was incredibly helpful,” Jordan says. “I recommend applicants avail themselves of Michelle’s knowledge for sure. In general with the EPF grants, I’d say, don’t be afraid to dive in and try!”

What were some strengths of the Alliance’s grant application? “We had a lot of letters of support from local politicians and community members, affirming the extent to which Prospect Park is used and beloved by millions of New Yorkers,” Jordan says. “We showed how much impact the Park has for the dollars spent to maintain it. I think the tie-in with NYC Parks was also important, as it shows that we have that key ongoing partnership and support. Lastly, we were very specific in the description of the work we wanted done, and realistic in the scope of the work possible.”

What were some surprising things in the implementation of the work and in its findings? “Firstly, we were surprised at how quickly DRG got the work done,” Jordan says. “They had between 6 and 10 professionals here at once, and they were very efficient. In terms of the findings, we learned that we have an ideal age and size class distribution of trees. This is probably a function of routine planting over time, but also speaks to the diversity of landscape types in the Park, from indigenous forest to new planting in the higher use areas.”

Jordan says he and his colleagues knew that black cherry trees (Prunus serotina) were common in the Park but were surprised to find out they represent fully 13% of the inventory done thus far. “We also found that we have many mature red oaks (Quercus rubra) in the Park, more than we knew,” he says. The preponderance of the black cherry trees is something to move away from in terms of future planting, but the presence of the red oaks (5% of total inventory) is a cause for celebration. According to the DRG Tree Management Plan, “Northern red oak is shown to have the highest replacement value of all inventoried species at $11,711,000, or 20% of Prospect Park’s historical investment.”

Another tree that makes up 5% of the inventory is white ash (Fraxinus americana), which was also a surprise, as it’s a higher percentage of this species than NYC at large contains. In the 5 boroughs of NYC, Prospect Park was the first place where emerald ash borer was discovered. “Knowing that fully 5% of our trees are white ash and that we do have EAB in the Park helps us think about what the next decade might have in store for us in terms of treatment and/or removals,” Jordan says.

Following the video is a summary of some of key findings by DRG in the Tree Management Plan they produced. The full Plan is available here.

State of the Existing Urban Forest: Prospect Park 

The May 2018 inventory included all trees greater than 6 inches in DBH in woodlots and all trees and stumps in horticultural and lawn areas. The zones selected for the inventory include: Zone 1, Zone 2, and a portion of Zone 3. A total of 12,413 sites were recorded during the inventory: 12,268 trees and 145 stumps. Analysis of the tree inventory data found the following:

  • One species, Prunus serotina (black cherry), was found in abundance (13%), which is a concern for Prospect Park’s biodiversity.
  • The diameter size class distribution of the inventoried tree population trends well towards the ideal.
  • The overall condition of the inventoried tree population is rated Fair.
  • Approximately 15% of the inventoried trees had decay, 21% of the inventoried trees had broken branches, 8% of the inventoried trees had stress caused by humans, and 3% of the inventoried trees had observed dieback.
  • Gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar dispar) and Asian longhorned beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis) pose the biggest threats to the health of the inventoried population.
  • Fraxinus (ash) trees could be infested with emerald ash borer (EAB or Agrilus planipennis), 7 of them were identified as having D-shaped exit holes and 13% were growing epicormic sprouts.
  • Prospect Park’s trees have an estimated replacement value of $59,463,000.
  • Trees provide approximately $1,596,472 in the following annual benefits:
    • Aesthetic and other benefits: valued at $589,254 per year.
    • Net Air quality: 24,181 pounds of pollutants removed and avoided valued at $125,098 per year.
    • Net Carbon: 2,9611 tons valued at $17,233 per year.
    • Energy: 1,064 megawatt-hours (MWh) and 386,499 therms valued at $693,263 per year.
    • Stormwater: 21,452,985 gallons valued at $ 171,624 per year.