Friday, July 19, 2013

Week 7: Stuck in the suburbs

Map Partying (planning).
On Monday afternoon, we emerged from Bianca onto the steaming pavement of Essex Junction's Five Corners intersection. Our mission for the week was to inventory each urban street tree in the public right-of-way in Essex Junction Village, noting down species, size, and condition. The lovely Elise Schadler of VT Urban and Community Forestry guided us in our work, providing software training, treats, and insight in the context of this project. 
Like many of our other projects, this inventory is intended to inform management practices for the urban forest. Data from this inventory may help monitor a disease outbreak, or prevent hazards and altercations. In addition, the project has a strong community aspect in that it intends to raise awareness of the importance of a healthy urban forest and expand public support. Town planners may use this data to establish tree dollar values, providing an economic lens to promote tree conservation.

Often overlooked as a crucial component of walkable, aesthetically pleasing neighborhoods, trees provide a wealth of benefits to communities. Urban trees provide shelter from the sun, serve as passive cooling devices for buildings, improve air quality, buffer storm runoff, regulate temperatures, provide wildlife habitat, mitigate noise pollution, and generally improve the appearance of a place. Elise told us that trees can even function in crime reduction. Their presence provides a resource for environmental education initiatives, community engagement, and fostering a strong sense of place. They’re hugely important for maintaining healthy and functioning communities that are easy on the eye.

Some forestry stars.
We spent three days in the field wrangling with a slightly maddening software system called Juno to record data and GPS coordinates. Partitioned into 4 separate groups, we trekked through the village landscape wearing bright vests and seeing mirages (it was a sweaty week). Upon reaching a new street to inventory, we measured and calculated the right-of-way distance from the curb, which would tell us which trees fell in the public realm and which did not. For each tree we happened upon, we recorded an assemblage of data including DBH (diameter at breast height), species, GPS location, overall condition, and whether it had defects and/or needed consulting. We also noted any properties that could possibly use a tree in their yard. At the close of each workday, Elise uploaded our data onto the Vermont Urban Community Forestry Tool and we entered all our notes into an Excel document.

Don't be scared.
We found the urban forest to be, for the most part, in good health, with minimal instances of consultation necessary. However, some bad news is that there are many trees in Essex Junction Village that are susceptible to invasive pests, a situation which should be closely monitored. Promoting a more diverse age structure and species assemblage will encourage the long-term sustainability of this urban forest.

Stopping traffic.

"I love this software." -Kristian

Downtime at the Essex Town Hall. Thanks for the cold water.

End-of-the-week-treats. Thanks, VT Urban and Community Forestry superstars!

Despite the oppressive heat, we had a fun week. Thanks so much to Nick for the pool party!

-the cr00

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