City Trees

September/October 2015

City Trees is a premier publication focused on urban + community forestry. In each issue, you’ll learn how to best manage the trees in your community and more!

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Page 15 of 39

NYC Parks Senior Forester for Trees and Sidewalks Brian Widener attended MFI 2015 in Silverton, Oregon. Stay tuned to the SMA website, www., for registration for MFI 2016, which will be held February 21-26, locaton TBA. How did you get turned on to MFI? Brian Widener: NYC Department of Parks and Recreation is a big supporter of MFI, and has sent people every year for the past three or four years, and given I had just stepped into the new role as the Senior Forester for Trees and Sidewalks, we thought it was a good oppor- tunity to take time now to think about advancing and improving the program. What was the most surprising thing to you about MFI? BW: The most surprising thing to me was how many small communities had an arborist or city forester or other rep- resentative at MFI. Small towns like Sheridan, Wyoming; Sitka, Alaska; and La Grande, Oregon were all represented at MFI, and these towns have fewer than 30,000 people. It's great knowing that some communities/states realize the importance of having a certified arborist on their staff to manage their community's tree resources. What was your biggest a-ha moment? BW: I learned I don't have to be at the top of the lad- der to be able to lead within the program. I can still contribute valuable ideas from the sidelines in order to contribute to our entire program. I am hoping to contribute more to the City tree protection and mainte- nance efforts throughout the City by using some lateral leadership tools. I joined our tree preservation task force. I can build my small program into a small pocket of greatness, and I hope to have a valuable tree pres- ervation program that is a part of the City's overall tree protection and maintenance efforts. What is one thing you learned that you are going to apply in practice back in your job? BW: The concept of hav- ing a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) was highlighted on one of the very first days of MFI. In other words, have a cou- ple of goals each year in which you shoot for the stars! Come up with a couple of nearly impossible goals for your program or community, etc. I already had some big ideas for the program I just came into last fall, but the MFI experience framed it in such a way that large, over-the-top goals are not just daydreams, but are acceptable and necessary in moving a program forward. My newly revised BHAGs include: improving the trees and sidewalks program logistics by using GIS and remote sensing to locate sidewalk damage throughout the City, designing and creating a new database to store and effectively report data, and mapping out the trees and sidewalks program data through GIS. What would you say to people who are thinking about attending MFI? BW: This is a weeklong training designed for people working at all levels who want to improve their strategic thinking and leadership skills. The networking among my peers was fantastic. I met professionals from small communities and professionals from large communities that are dealing with different problems than what I have experienced in NYC. As arborists, one of our key duties is to interact with the public, other municipal agencies, and confidently deal with limited resources. Jennifer from North Carolina seemed to have similar homeowner challenges that I had faced over the years in relation to tree roots and sidewalks here in NYC. Part of the MFI experience is connecting with professionals outside your community and your region to discuss and share ideas not just during MFI, but afterwards. Networking sites have been thoughtfully set up by MFI so that my new set of colleagues can keep sharing ideas with each other. Thanks to the support of the NYC Deputy Chief of Forestry and my agency, as well as the support of the NYS Urban Forestry Council and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, I had a rewarding expe- rience at MFI 2015. Brian Widener on the Municipal Forestry Institute 16 City Trees

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