Douglas Airhart takes tree inventory for several Upper Cumberland cities

A Tennessee Tech University agriculture professor is doing his part to help beautify the landscape of four Upper Cumberland cities.

Douglas Airhart, a certified arborist, is working to provide tree inventories and management plans for Cookeville, Crossville and Livingston and a management plan for Tullahoma.

The four projects, all of which require a 50 percent match my TTU and the cities, are funded by more than $25,000 in grant money from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Forestry Division. The projects will bring each of the cities’ urban forestry programs a step closer to achieving managing level status, designated by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Forestry Service.

“There are four different elements that a city has to meet in order for its urban forestry program to be classified as managing level status,” Airhart said. “It has to have a tree board or some other form of advocacy group; passed a tree ordinance; implemented an inventory-based management plan, such as those on which I’ll be working; and staff an urban forester.”

Right now, Tullahoma’s program meets all those criteria except for the management plan. “It’s not unrealistic to expect Tullahoma to be classified as a managing city by the end of the year,” he said.

The three other cities Airhart’s working with have all established tree boards and have passed tree ordinances, so they already meet half of the criteria.

“The number of trees in a city is usually greater than any other municipal property — from staff and vehicles, to traffic lights and parking meters,” Airhart said. “That’s why tree inventories and management plans are especially important to urban forestry programs.”

In Cookeville, his tree inventory will include data on no fewer than 2,300 public trees. His tree inventory in Crossville is expected in include a minimum of 400 trees, and Livingston’s will include at least 750.

“Data collected on each tree will consist of species identification, location, trunk diameter, height, canopy spread, condition, general hazard assessment and recommended work needed,” he said.

After data is collected for the individual trees, Airhart will draft comprehensive assessments and summary reports for each city detailing species distributions, condition and size classifications and sizes and conditions by species of trees.

Summary tables from each report will be included in the corresponding city’s management plan, which will assist each one’s urban forestry program in all aspects of selecting, planting and maintaining its municipal trees.

Components of each city’s management plan, Airhart said, will include but are not limited to community awareness and needs; goals and objectives; strategies, actions and tasks; implantation schedules with timetables and appropriate budgets; and specific recommendations regarding potential hazards identified during the tree inventory.

Appendices of the management plan may consist of inventory documentation, maps of management districts and utilities, relevant tree and landscape ordinances, technical and safety manuals, species lists and lists of vendors.

Since Airhart won’t be collecting a tree inventory for Tullahoma, that city’s management plan will be based on data previously collected for the its existing tree inventory and on training Airhart received at the Society of Municipal Arborists’ Municipal Forester Institute, held last year in California.

“The ultimate goal of this series of projects is to help these cities increase both the quality and quantity of their municipal trees,” he said.

Cities with more trees reap greater environmental and economic rewards than cities with fewer trees, Airhart continued.

“Trees help regulate levels of carbon in the air, provide better water management and flood control, help dissipate accumulated heat and provide shade, and serve as sight or wind barriers. These are some of the environmental advantages they provide,” he said.

“They also provide economic advantages by helping to increase property values,” Airhart said, “and economic studies have found that the higher the number of shade trees surrounding shopping centers and retail locations, the more likely patrons are to park longer or farther away, loiter longer and shop more.”

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