By Kim Siebert MacPhail
About a dozen Bedford residents attended a training session at the DPW on August 21, led by Mollie Freilicher, a representative from the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation. The purpose of the day-long exercise was to establish how the group of volunteers will, in the coming months, become familiar with different tree species; identify diseases, pests, and other conditions; establish a database for sorting information from the field; and eventually lead groups of volunteers in the field this spring for a town-wide street tree inventory.
“What we want to do is to have citizens become familiar with trees as resources,” said Bedford Arbor Resource Committee (BARC) member Ruth Chatterton Robinson, who—with the cooperation of BARC’s DPW liaison Dennis Freeman—is coordinating the effort. “We need to have a way of creating a prioritized plan, beginning with this inventory, [which identifies dead or ailing trees] and takes replacement into account, so that we can maintain our tree-lined streets.”
BARC Chair Jaci Edwards said that the tree inventory initiative originates from the US Forest Service. It will focus, Chatterton explained, on gathering three main points of information: species, location, and condition. While all manner of conditions will be noted during the inventory, pest damage is of particular concern in light of the millions of trees already lost nationally to invasive insects such as the Asian Longhorn Beetles and Emerald Ash Borers that have migrated into the northeast.
To organize the information gathered by the volunteer groups, who will be led by this week’s workshop participants, BARC and the DPW plan to use a database tool called i-Tree [https://www.itreetools.org/] that, according to the website, “help[s] communities of all sizes to strengthen their urban forest management and advocacy efforts by quantifying the structure of community trees and the environmental services that trees provide.”
BARC will have a booth on Bedford Day [Saturday, September 21] and interested residents are urged to come by, pick up a tree guide, and register to join the volunteer groups that will mobilize on a yet-to-be-determined weekend in May, once the foliage has emerged. Chatterton envisions a coordinated system of information gathering in which those trained by Freilicher will captain groups that concentrate on assigned quadrants of town. The data will then be given to a second group of volunteers who will feed it into the i-Tree database.
Before the August 21 training session, DPW liaison Freeman commented that Bedford’s initiative is one among many tree inventories happening across the country. Other BARC members added that the federal effort aims at conserving trees to capture and store carbon dioxide and that inventorying the resource also facilitates urban forest management.
To illustrate, BARC Chair Edwards explained, “If you find a lot of hazardous trees, you don’t want them in places where there are a lot of people walking or driving. If we can get ahead of things, it will be a better managed [asset].”