Last week I (Derek) had the chance to attend the Partners in Community Forestry Conference, held annually by The Arbor Day Foundation. Each year the conference is hosted by a different city doing exceptional work in the field of urban and community forestry and this year’s conference was held in Indianapolis. This is my third time attending the conference, in 2013 we went to Pittsburgh, in 2014 it was Charlotte and sadly we missed the 2015 conference in Denver.
In Indy they have an organization very similar to WTI, but theirs is a little more established; Keep Indianapolis Beautiful is over 40 years old and takes on all kinds of work from tree planting to neighborhood cleanups to literally creating parks, and more. Conference attendees had the pleasure of seeing their good work all around the lovely city and I got to enjoy the urban life of this clean and very walkable city in the evenings after the conference. Little did I know going in how much I would enjoy this city in the Hoosier state, I would highly recommend a visit if you’re looking for a place to travel.
But the conference itself was not just about Indianapolis, it was about learning from other people’s experience in this line of work. It may come as a surprise to you but Worcester Tree Initiative is not alone in the world, there were nearly 600 people in attendance representing all 50 states and beyond. At dinner one night I had conversations with people from Georgia, Michigan, Hawaii, North Carolina, Arizona, Ohio, Indiana, and California. Between these conversations, which took place during every break, and the conference lectures I felt so enriched and encouraged.
Everyone at this conference does amazing work and has so much to share. Many groups are planting and caring for more than a thousand trees a year and see to their care and maintenance for a full 5 years before transferring the responsibility to the person who owns the land. Another group hires 100 year for 8 months out of the year, giving them 20 hours a week through the whole summer and weekend hours during the school year. They provide part time employment for youth and introduce young minds to the possibilities of working to better the city with trees. There are groups who have changed their cities policies and laws to support the protection of their trees. And then there are the rising number of groups who are finding creative ways to get their local breweries to support their work by offering a free beer to people who volunteer with these organizations.
Seeing how other people are doing some of the same things that we do but a little differently, or learning how they overcame obstacles similar to ones we are facing gave me a huge boost of inspiration that will carry my work heading into our winter season