by Michelle Gluck
This past fall, residents may have noticed a group of men and women walking the main thoroughfares, residential streets, and parks of Beacon with a determined strut, heads craned up in the typical manner of a city tourist. But the orange safety vests and clipboards made it clear these visitors were not here to gawk at architectural details. It was a highly trained S.W.A.T. team, conducting a comprehensive street tree inventory for Beacon, observing the physical characteristics of over a thousand tree and planting sites throughout the city.
The Specialized Weekday Arborist Team was assembled by Dutchess County Cornell Cooperative and comprised of Master Gardeners, Bard College students, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater interns, and a state forester. Data collected includes tree species, location, and condition. The team also makes notes on recommended management of existing trees as well as potential planting sites.
The inventory was conducted as part of a Small Communities Urban Forestry Grant, awarded to Clearwater in 2011 by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The main goal of the multi-year grant is to promote the vital role that environmental conditions such as clean air, water, and natural habitat play in building healthier communities. It is an exciting opportunity to put a spotlight on Beacon’s parks, green space and street trees that might sometimes fall to the wayside, but that provide valuable environmental, economic, social, and aesthetic benefits.
Results were compiled into a report that determined Beacon’s street trees have a replacement value of almost five million dollars and an annual environmental benefits value of $109,000. Benefits of trees include energy savings, storm water control, air quality improvement, and aesthetics.
“It is very important to have buy-in from local officials to ensure that the inventory is followed by action,” says Brenda Cagle, Hudson Valley S.W.A.T. Coordinator. “A forestry management plan, inventory updating, and action on maintenance recommendations. Beacon city officials have received inventory data, the full Beacon Street Tree Inventory Report, and will receive a presentation about the findings.”
Community awareness about the benefits of urban forestry and green infrastructure is integral to this grant project. In addition to the Beacon Street Tree Inventory, Clearwater organizes events such as tree plantings, green jobs education, and training. The non-profit group, with headquarters at University Settlement Camp on 9D, also sponsored Arbor Day Celebrations in both 2012 and 2013, and will be hosting the 2014 Arbor Day Celebration this upcoming spring. When the date is announced it will be listed in the Wigwam events calendar.
Michelle Gluck is an official S.W.A.T. member