Tree maintenance efforts branch out

By Todd Erzen
Des Moines, IA (August 17, 2007)- Volunteers with Trees Forever are collecting data from species in the city’s rights of way, and later in parks. About a dozen local volunteers are helping Des Moines officials raise their standard of care for the trees that line the city’s streets and fill its parks.

Trees Forever, a nonprofit organization out of Marion, is coordinating those volunteers in their effort to catalog representative samples among the roughly 100,000 trees located in city rights of way before this winter. A more expansive accounting of Des Moines’ trees, to include the Des Moines parks system’s 40,000 trees, will likely resume in the spring.
Public Works Director Bill Stowe said the volunteer effort is irreplaceable. “They provide an enthusiastic and focused source of data collection out in the field,” Stowe said. “When you think about the laboriousness of collecting data on trees, in my world it is hard enough to just take counts of manholes or stop signs. Trees are pretty challenging.”
Not only are the trees being counted, but they are measured for diameter and assessed for overall health and general maintenance needs as well as having their species listed. “We are not only getting data, but great data,” added Stowe. “Our urban forest is an extraordinary asset that we need to better manage and the key to better management is better data.”
To ensure the best possible local leadership for long-term planning concerning trees, Trees Forever is also helping city officials form a steering committee that will operate as a subgroup of Mayor Frank Cownie’s Task Force on Energy and the Environment.
Local foresters and conservationists will be called upon to assist city officials and other area stakeholders in assessing information, such the temperature data recently supplied by Trees Forever volunteers.
Laser thermometers showed a 20- to 30-degree difference in temperature exists on paved surfaces depending on whether they are shaded or not. What that means for public policy and a city’s livability is a matter of having clear priorities, said Trees Forever spokesman Brad Riphagen. “There are a lot of issues beyond just planting,” he said.
Trees Forever’s role in helping to cool things down in Des Moines has consisted of planting more than 640 trees since 2005 with the help of $200,000 in money from the Home Depot Foundation. Those tree plantings are often done as public events to help encourage other green initiatives. For example, crews from the Des Moines parks system, according to Riphagen, have planted at least triple the number of trees that Trees Forever has since 2005.
Projects completed by Trees Forever have included plantings at Grandview Park, Gray’s Lake, Union Park, the Waterbury Neighborhood, Martin Luther King Boulevard and Hoyt and Brubaker schools. This year’s projects will focus on Des Moines Area Community College’s Urban Campus, the East Side Softball Complex, Chautauqua Park and neighborhoods on the north and east side of Des Moines.
Related Resources:
Des Moines Register
Trees Forever