The History and Purpose Of the Mid-Columbia Community Forestry Council
In 1992, Marianne Ophardt, the Washington State University Cooperative Extension Agent identified the local need for an urban forester in the Tri-Cities. Ophardt met with the directors of the Parks and Recreation departments from the three cities, Dick Erickson from Pasco, Russ Burtner from Kennewick, and Bill Gilbert from Richland. Due to a downturn in the area’s economy and decreasing city budgets, each city indicated that they could not support funding for an urban forester. The purpose of this forester would have been to protect the health of urban (municipal-owned) trees and educate the public about their value and care. However, the directors said that they would support efforts by Ophardt to form a non-profit forestry council which would represent the three cities in promoting urban forestry in the area and obtaining urban forestry grant funding from the Department of Natural Resources.
The council was established in 1993 as a non-profit corporation with the purpose of promoting the value, benefits, and importance of trees through educational programs. Since that time the Council has provided free assistance to local municipalities, schools, and other non-profit service organizations. The council and its members have provided a variety of services and assistance to the cities of Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland including:
- Coordination of tree plantings by volunteers and arranged for publicity with local media coverage of these events. Plantings have been throughout the Tri-Cities area.
- Provided on-site coordination and consulting for these tree plantings projects.
- Obtained urban forestry grant funds totaling $5,000 to establish council and produce the Big Tree Book.
These funds were matched with in-kind service by council members and other community volunteers. Obtained urban forestry grant funds totaling over $5,000 for tree planting projects in Pasco, Kennewick, and Richland.
- Obtained an urban forestry grant for $6,000 to provide teacher training in urban forestry.
- Developed “Growing with Trees” curriculum and provided teacher training workshops on trees and tree care.
- Assisted in organizing and hosting the 1992 Inland Northwest Urban Forestry Conference held in the Tri-Cities.
- Performed preliminary hazard tree assessments upon request to cities.
- Provided on-site tree problem diagnosis and consultations upon request to cities.
- Obtained urban forestry funds from DNR to develop a website for the Mid-Columbia region with information about the MCCFC and tree selection, planting, and care in the region.
- Provided on-site tree pruning consultations upon request to cities.
- Acted as local liaison with Washington State Community Forestry Council.
- Provided public education on tree care (selection, planting, and pruning).
- Prepared a tree species list for the region to be used in urban forestry plans and by individuals making tree selection decisions.
- Provided guidance and assistance to local organizations with tree planting or educational projects.
- Assisted with development and provided support for urban forestry plans in the cities.
- All interested individuals and municipalities have been invited to become active board members and are always welcome to participate in Mid-Columbia Community Forestry Council activities and business meetings. Current active members include a number of professionals with expertise in tree care and concerned citizens with public service experience.
- Other ways in which the council can assist partner cities:
- Act as local tree board for Tree City USA application
- Help prepare Tree City USA application
- Act as a grant partner for urban forestry grants
- Provide letters of recommendation for urban forestry grant applications
- Helpdraft tree/urban forestry ordinances to fit city's needs
- Assist in preparation of pruning and tree planting specifications
- Assist in preparation of urban forestry grant applications
The Mid-Columbia Community Forestry Council provides a valuable service to the cities of Pasco, Kennewick, and Richland by educating youth and adults about the economic, environmental, and aesthetic value of trees. They have brought funding to this area and helped promote the improved health of trees in the three cities. Their efforts have fostered improved stewardship oflocal urban trees and city green spaces and has encouraged the development of urban forestry plans.