City urged to create tree management plan

By Ben Holbrook | Dec 13, 2012

Belfast — City councilors considered a request from the tree warden to begin making a long-term plan for managing Belfast’s forests.

The presentation highlighted areas Tree Warden Didier Bonner-Ganter, who has served as the city’s tree warden for three years, believed the city could improve upon in terms of how the position is compensated; maintaining and updating an inventory of trees in the city and looking at other small cities with urban forestry programs and healthy economies.

“What I hope to accomplish at the City Council meeting on Dec. 4 is to present a realistic and reasonable path forward to follow, in order to manage the urban forest asset which abounds on many streets, parks and greenways in Belfast,” Bonner-Ganter wrote in a memo to councilors.

Bonner-Ganter states in his memo he feels the city is being more reactive than proactive when addressing issues of tree management. He encouraged councilors to consider a long-term plan that would take into account how Belfast has been changing in recent years.

As an example of why he feels a long-term plan needs to be implemented, Bonner-Ganter said the city has used volunteer labor to handle some aspects of tree management, and while that approach has worked in some cases, it would be more beneficial to have a professional oversee the work, because that person would know which trees are appropriate in certain areas.

“The city has an opportunity to improve the process for managing its urban forests,” Bonner-Ganter said.

One of Bonner-Ganter’s suggestions is to establish criteria for determining a suitable tree warden for people who will hold the position in the future. He also suggested that the tree warden be salaried or receive a stipend, depending on the work the person is performing.

Bonner-Ganter notes that the position could even be merged with an existing city position, such as the director of parks and recreation. As an alternative, the city could contract with an arborist to perform the duties of the tree warden, which would include doing plantings and taking an inventory of the trees in the city.

He also suggested councilors consider looking at the tree management programs implemented in Burlington, Vt., Bath and Bangor because, he said, they are “exemplary” models.

After Bonner-Ganter finished his presentation, Councilor Mike Hurley, who has also served as the city’s tree warden in the past, suggested forming a small committee to further discuss how the city should manage its trees.

“I think you’ve given us a lot to think about,” Hurley said.

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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