Mary Collister, Times Correspondent | Thursday, May 14, 2009 4:30am
The Hillsborough County Extension and the University of Florida recently offered the Florida Community Forest Steward Program at the extension office in Seffner. I was lucky enough to take part in this first class.
The course focused on urban forestry or caring for the environment, trees and plants in developed areas. The subject area was condensed into five classes.
Thirty-two hours of classroom and field work covered: identification of common trees; selection of correct species; proper care and maintenance of trees and shrubs; identification of common insect and disease problems; assessment of the economic value of landscape trees; participation in a tree inventory; and working on a plan to fund and implement a community tree and woodland program.
Rob Northrop, extension forester, told the first class of 16 students that the program is different than many classes taught through the extension service because it is ecologically based. The class concentrated on the urban forest system as a whole, not just the trees.
Michael Andreu, an assistant professor of forest systems at the Plant City campus of the University of Florida, mentioned a local organization, the Tampa Bay Watershed Forest Working Group, which was formed to study urban forest within the parameters of the continuing development in our area. He explained that this class was one more way to get community involvement in the urban forest issue. Take a look at the working group’s Web site at tampabayforest.org.
The morning spent at Nature’s Classroom was the workshop’s most memorable field trip. The hands-on experience provided the opportunity to identify native and nonnative trees and look at an ecosystem at work.
Class members enjoyed using clinometers to measure the height of trees and an increment borer to estimate the age of a tree.
Northrop and Andreu said they are eager to repeat the workshop.
“People immediately commented that they were thinking about the urban forest in a different way; their perspective was changed,” Northrop said. “It also turned out to be a lot of fun, an enjoyable experience.”
Andreu said the first group of stewards impressed him. He described the participants as a group of self-identified community leaders who will help the instructors develop this project.
The instructors’ enthusiasm was contagious, and the fast-paced course easily held the attention of all the participants. Sharing experiences and knowledge throughout the classes made the experience relevant. This new cadre of amateur urban foresters left the course ready to share their newfound knowledge with community members.
Graduates of the Community Forest Steward Program are able to provide educational leadership concerning community tree and woodland management within their communities, conduct community forest inventories in support of a statewide program organized by the University of Florida’s Plant City campus, volunteer at the extension service, and volunteer at schools to educate youth about community forests. They may also conduct public education workshops.
The five classes enabled instructors and students to do little more than scratch the surface of urban forestry. At the end of the last class, many students were already requesting more classes, which both Andreu and Northrop said they will provide.
“This is just the beginning,” Northrop said. “We will offer whatever you need to continue this program.”
If you want to be part of the next steward program classes beginning this fall, call Carol Carson at (813) 744-5519, ext. 105. If you have an interest in the University of Florida’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation programs, call the Plant City campus at (813) 757-2274. The university offers undergraduate and graduate programs at this campus as well as nondegree options. Visit gcrec.ifas.ufl.edu/pcc for more.
Water usage tip: As mulch begins to decompose, it can get matted. This mat repels water. Use a leaf rake and your hands to break up these mats and move the mulch around in your beds. That way every drop of water has a better chance of making it to the root zone.
New course at Hillsborough County Extension focuses on urban forestry 05/14/09 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:57pm]