A Winter Tree Walk

japanese mapleOur city has a non-profit organization that is dedicated to supporting, contributing to, and enhancing the city’s urban forest. They plant trees, give tree care advice, and lead educational tree walks. And, their board meets in the library.

My boss, who is excellent at both lurking and networking, was hanging around the library one day and got them interested in partnering with us to do a tree walk. The library is right next door to a small park, where the city has planted all sorts of interesting trees over the years. Why not have people meet at the library before heading out to see some nature?

What’s a tree walk? Arborists lead a walking tour of trees, identifying the different species, describing their characteristics, and talking about how they should be cared for. They may also discuss broader or non-botanical aspects, such as when and why the tree was planted, or if it’s considered an invasive species.

The non-profit was very excited to partner with us, particularly because they knew we have a wide range of folks that see our event promotions (we flyer all over the library) and because we’ve got a giant copier to run off materials (the non-profit otherwise works mostly off home printers).

We were excited to partner with them because of their expertise and enthusiasm. Their collective knowledge of trees is pretty deep, and although the library has excellent gardening and botanical resources, people are really key in disseminating this kind of knowledge. Tree care is really a localized knowledge (that is, the climate and location of the tree dictates what it needs to flourish), and one that is built over years or decades of experience. Person to person sharing is a vital way to keep this information circulating in the community. Partnering with the non-profit also fed a new group of enthusiastic library-supporters. It gave their organization a deeper stake in the library’s success.

I created the flyer and we printed it out on the library copier. We posted it in the library, and I publicized the event virtually to our usual places (our local Patch, Neighborhood associations, ZEvents, and our FaceBook page). I also emailed an announcement to the list of people who’ve used our seed library and asked to be kept informed of seed library-related events. The non-profit took a stack of about 50 flyers and posted them around town.

We held the event at 1 PM on a Saturday. We attracted about 40 attendees, and three dogs. About two thirds of those came specifically for the tree walk, and another third wandered over when they saw what was going on. I met people in the lobby and directed them outside, where the non-profit had set up a table with nut bread, fruit, hot cider, and assorted pamphlets and tree-related literature. The non-profit had created a brochure which included a map of the park’s trees, and a little blurb about each one. Each participant got one of these brochures.

Then they set off, making a slow circle around the park (about an hour). The walk was conducted by three arborists, with most of the talking done by two of them, and the third mostly scooping up quiet questions from the back. It was a little hampered by a festival that was taking place in an adjacent courtyard. It was a little hard to hear, and a portable PA system may have really improved the experience. The festival included a children’s train ride, which circled the park along the route of the tree walk. So the arborists would have to pause every ten minutes or so to wave to the children. But, this also contributed to a generally festive atmosphere.

All in all, I heard a lot of wonderful comments from participants. One patron, who is a library regular but never attends programs, was really very enthusiastic. She enjoyed the walk, and then was delighted to also be able to get advice about some rose bushes she had recently rescued from a construction project. We are all excited for spring, when we will recreate the event, this time as the trees are waking up from their winter’s slumber. The library also hopes to be able to provide the tree walk brochures to patrons, so that they may do self-guided tours.

Photo: Coral Bark Maple by Flickr User TexasEagle via Creative Commons License