Danielle Crumrine, Executive Director of Tree Pittsburgh, shares with us the nuts and bolts of developing an Urban Forest Master Plan. Tree Pittsburgh has been instrumental in leading the charge to put together and execute what has turned out to be a model plan for Pittsburgh. It’s a worthwhile undertaking and Danielle tells us why–in addition to more on the process for creating a plan and plan essentials. Here’s our interview:
ACTrees: What exactly is an Urban Forest Master Plan?
DC: An Urban Forest Master Plan is a road map, providing detailed information, recommendations, and resources needed to effectively and proactively manage and grow a city’s tree canopy. More importantly it provides a shared vision for the future of the urban forest to inspire and engage stakeholders in the care and protection of trees.
ACTrees: What’s the cost/benefit of such a plan for a city?
DC: Before starting the plan, we hosted a symposium with local, regional, and state stakeholders as well as urban forestry professionals from Philadelphia, Washington DC, and New York City to develop a framework for the plan. One of the exercises was to collectively answer the question: How will such a plan benefit all city stakeholders? The discussion yielded the following:
- To proactively address growing environmental challenges.
- To create baseline metrics and clear goals for Pittsburgh’s urban forest.
- To create a coordinated vision.
- To develop long-term advocates and increase civic participation.
- To practice and model efficiency and cooperation.
Knowing the expected benefits up front, we can record the impact of the Urban Forest Master Plan and measure against the initial investment to determine return on investment. The initial investment in the plan was approximately $250,000. With our partners, we’ve already raised over one-half a million to implement the recommendations of the plan.
DC: Tree Pittsburgh led the project from its inception, organized the symposium, and raised the funds to make the plan a reality. We served as the project manager, working with consultants, the steering committee, and the public to write the plan.
Now, in the midst of the plan’s implementation, our Board approved a three-year strategic plan that defines our role moving forward and aligns our programs with the goals and recommendations of the Urban Forest Master Plan. That role includes convening working groups to focus on specific areas of the plan as well as increased advocacy to promote action at the municipal level. Finally, we are responsible for producing an annual progress report.
DC: The symposium paved the way for the plan by outlining the framework and desired outcomes. The group determined that the the Urban Forest Master Plan process would include:
- Thorough benchmarking of existing Urban Forest Master Plans from other communities.
- Detailed analysis of Pittsburgh urban forest size, condition, and characteristics.
- A mission and vision for the Pittsburgh Urban Forest.
- Strategy, goals, outcomes and metrics for tree planting preservation and maintenance.
- Work plans with early implementables, clearly defined roles, time line with milestones and a budget for implementation.
- A marketing, outreach, and media plan.
- A financial plan including innovative approaches to funding via public/private partnerships.
DC: Again, back to the symposium, another collective exercise was for the group to list all stakeholders who should be involved in the planning process. Some of the partners included: utilities, key municipal departments like Forestry and City Planning, the water and sewer authority, County Health Department, other environmental non-profits, PA DCNR, and the USDA Forest Service etc.
In addition, we managed a campaign to gather input from city residents to ensure the plan was relevant to the public. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our fantastic consulting team Jackson Clark Partners which helped to organize the symposium, wrote the benchmark report, and led the public outreach campaign. The University of VT Spatial Analysis Lab conducted the urban tree canopy analysis and provided expert guidance throughout the project, and Davey Resource Group conducted the I-tree Eco analysis and authored the Urban Forest Master Plan.
ACTrees: What advice do you have for cities looking to develop an Urban Forest Master Plan?
DC: The initial symposium was key to our success as we created early buy-in from key partners, and we developed a framework to guide the entire project. In addition, I would encourage those interested to reach out to us and other cities that have completed master plans to share models, lessons learned, etc. I would also advise an investment in research to fully understand the size and condition of your urban forest. The data will not only serve as a planning tool, but also as fundraising and advocacy tool.
For a progress report on how Pittsburgh’s plan being executed and results so far, visit their website at www.treepittsburgh.org.
Danielle Crumrine has worked in various capacities in the Pittsburgh environmental community for more than ten years. Prior to joining as TreePittsburgh’s Executive Director in 2007, she was the founding Board President and Executive Director of Allegheny CleanWays, a group dedicated to empowering people to fight illegal dumping and littering in Allegheny County. Danielle was named a top 40 under 40 environmental leader across the state of Pennsylvania by the PA Environmental Council, and in 2011, she was elected to the Board of Directors of Alliance for Community Trees.