Saratoga Springs Tree Survey Off To a Great Start

Here is an update from Tom Denny on this important project:

On April 21, in celebration of Earth Day weekend, Sustainable Saratoga’s Urban Forestry Project launched our 2012 tree survey season.  The threatening weather held off and we had seventy-five passionate volunteers sign in, which doesn’t even include the nice turnout of kids who came with their families.  You can count ‘em in the attached photo, taken under one of Saratoga’s legacy American elms.  (A special thanks to Commissioners Michele Madigan and Chris Mathiesen, as well as Supervisor Joanne Yepsen, for their participation.)  It was festive, it was fun, it was gratifying, it was educational, and it was productive.  The energy was phenomenal and we accomplished a great deal in one day.  Many dedicated volunteers worked from 10 AM until the rain chased them in about 3 PM.  We followed that up with additional training sessions on the evenings of April 23 and 24, which placed nearly thirty additional volunteers into the field.  All in all, over 100 volunteers hit the streets counting trees this week, with an additional fifty having expressed willingness but not yet having attended a training session.  A huge thanks to all  !  This offers a strong sign of how greatly the citizens value our urban trees!

The tree survey is Sustainable Saratoga’s in-kind contribution to the City’s responsibilities under a DEC Urban Forestry grant it applied for a few years ago.  The DEC initially expected the City to pay $20,000 in matching funds to hire an external consultant to conduct the survey.  Sustainable Saratoga offered to organize the survey and analyze the data on a volunteer basis, and saved the taxpayers the $20,000.  The DEC grant enables the City to develop its first-ever Tree Master Plan.  Sustainable Saratoga will take the survey data, crunch its numbers through a forestry software called iTree, and produce a report that quantifies the economic and environmental  benefits of Saratoga’s urban forest.   This will provide the foundation for the City’s plan.

In addition to the survey work, we provided participants on April 21 with instructions for three tree-related activities:  a self-guided walking tour (with location and DBH) of seven majestic elm survivors in downtown Saratoga (and the survey has just turned up an eighth);  a self-guided walking tree hunt of the varied trees of Congress Park; and a call to the public to tell us their stories about Saratoga’s biggest, best, or just plain favorite trees (send your favorites to saratogatreesurvey@gmail.com).  The self-guided tours are available by request at the same email address.

Many hands do indeed make light work.  At the end of 2011, we had surveyed only about 23% of the survey area.  Early work done this spring had inched us up to almost exactly a quarter of the survey completed.  Since the April 21 launch event, the 100+ volunteers have already completed another 25% (we are now 50% finished) and have in their hands, actively being surveyed as I write, virtually all of the remaining 50%.  We expect to complete the original survey work by early May and have decided, given the enthusiastic response by the volunteers, to expand our survey area to include additional sections of the city.  Of course, completing the survey will not be the end of our efforts; it will really be more the beginning of an era of strong tree advocacy in Saratoga.    For more information, check our website http://www.sustainablesaratoga.com/about-us/initiatives/the-urban-forestry-project/ or Like us on Facebook, at Sustainable Saratoga’s Urban Forestry Project (email: forestbaum@gmail.com).

What were some of the most interesting impressions that volunteer surveyors brought back from the streets?  Some great trees were noted, including a “new” legacy American elm on Nelson Avenue, some large basswood trees, some great oaks, and a beautiful slippery elm.  Many ventured into tree wastelands and returned to us shocked by the sheer number of treeless streets (or virtually treeless streets) in Saratoga.  Finally, the lack of tree diversity was a recurrent observation from the front lines.  In particular, volunteers noted the preponderance of recently planted Norway maples (green leaf and Crimson King) and Bradford pears, all of which are on the DEC interim Invasive Species List.

Happy Volunteers Ready to Survey Trees

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