Volunteer Opportunity: Dallas Citizen Foresters

By Rita Cook   

File 5734At Earth Day Oak Cliff 2013,  Eric Larner, certified Master Gardener and Dallas citizen forester, said that when he retired, he was looking for a place to volunteer some of his time. He picked the Dallas Urban Forest Advisory Committee and he loves what he does there. The work with plants in the outdoors fits his interests well. 

(Right, Eric Lerner and other members of the Dallas Urban Forester Advisory Committe at their Earth Day Oak 2013 booth.) 

According to city of Dallas Urban Forest Advisory Committee vice chair Larry Hochberg, the help is welcome.

“We need volunteers that serve on the committee, volunteers in the community that organize their neighborhoods and see a tree project through, volunteers that actually come out and help dig holes, plant, mulch and water the trees that are planted and even volunteers that maintain the trees for the two years that it takes for them to establish,” he said.

So by volunteers Hochberg means they are looking for all types of folks who are interested in not only trees but also people who believe that green spaces and trees are important in the urban environment to enhance the quality of life.

Hochberg says indeed, that this volunteer opportunity is a commitment that translates into the volunteer being “willing to devote time because they think these goals are important.”

The volunteers in the city of Dallas Urban Forest Advisory Committee are part of the efforts to green the city. The next step are things like participating with the city staff, builders and developers and even safety personnel on balanced solutions to protect trees in the city without stymieing development.

“We have some major experts on the trees that sit on our committee and we advise about the city’s urban forest,” he adds.

That said, Hochberg also believes that a major component of the committee in the community is identifying neighborhood projects for an inventory that is being developed. Another way in which the needed volunteers can be useful is helping to identify medians and city right-of ways along city streets where the city will provide free trees to be planted and also volunteers to help identify neighborhood groups and stakeholders who are willing to sponsor planting trees in designated public places.

“Other volunteer projects include assistance with maintaining our website, participating in our workshops as speakers and assisting in planning a future half-day seminar on green sustainable neighborhoods. We could also use assistance in fundraising and grant writing to assist in funding watering facilities to support median plantings in lower income neighborhoods where we are attempting to assist with the mayor’s grows initiative.”

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                        (Above, neighborhood volunteers planting trees. Courtesy Larry Hochberg)

More volunteers are expected to be needed too. Hochberg says that they likely will need volunteers to help educate the public, for example, by preparing bulletins on how to plant a tree.

“A key role is to try to make the public aware of the effect of the heat island due to the overbuilding of concrete impermeable surfaces,” he says.

Another major aspect of the program is the actual planting and growing of trees that are available free through two city programs. But that is not new to the committee nor is the need for volunteers within the committee, which has been around since 2005.

“It might seem new now because in the past year they have made great effort to get before the public distributing publications on the benefit of trees, participating in Earth Day events, workshops and neighborhood association seminars," said Hochberg.

“Currently a major issue is trying to developing a watering capability that will assist tree-planting in lower income neighborhoods such that they share equally in the city’s program touting free trees in public places."

Hochberg says that trees are the lungs of the city.

“We think that balance can be achieved to maintain and grow the urban forest and we are really the stewards and responsible for an essential resource/element of our city for generations in the future.”

Goals for the next five years include looking more closely at south of the Trinity River, which is the direction he says Dallas will be developing.

In five years he hopes that the quality of life in the area around the urban forest will bring much health.

“The trees we plant today will just have been established and beginning to grow and in five years more and more communities and neighborhoods will be identified and encouraged and adopting sites we have identified to actualize tree planting projects,” he said.

For more information visit http://www.dallascityhall.com/Parks/forestry/forestry_advisory.html.


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 Rita Cook is an award winning journalist who writes or has written for the Dallas Morning News, Focus Daily News, Waxahachie Daily Light, Dreamscapes Travel Magazine, Porthole, Core Media, Fort Worth Star Telegram and many other publications in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago.  With five books published, her latest release is “A Brief History of Fort Worth” published by History Press.  You can contact her at rcook13@earthlink.net  

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