Green Infrastructure

Mike Dirksen
City Arborist
City of Springfield, Illinois

On December 16-18, 2002, APWA, along with other experts from across the country, joined together in Chicago, Illinois to discuss and to determine what our nation’s urban forestry needs are for the next ten years. Approximately 75 people were selectively invited to attend the National Urban & Community Forestry Research and Technology Transfer Summit, which is mandated by Congress and administered through the USDA Forest Service. This group is required to meet every 10 years with the purpose of preparing a National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Plan. This plan is to include:

  • Recommendations for new and expanded research efforts directed towards urban and community forestry concerns.
  • A summary of research priorities.
  • An estimate of funds needed to implement such research on an annual basis for the next 10 years.
There were more than 32 topics presented, which included the management of urban tree populations, the capacity for municipalities to properly manage their trees, and how trees work and function in the developed environment. Another topic of interest was the benefit of trees and how trees provide environmental, economic, social and psychological benefits to people.

A fitting buzzword that kept popping up at the summit was “Green Infrastructure.” Certainly, our city managers and engineers have quite an extensive understanding of our “Gray Infrastructure,” which includes streets, sidewalks, sewers and utilities. However, it was clearly identified that more studies and a greater understanding of our natural areas, such as parks, greenways, waterways, wetlands and wooded sites, are needed to determine the effects which pertain to the health and quality of life for our communities.

Given the experience at this summit, I am certain that many of these questions will be answered. And, although it seemed a daunting task at times to determine the urban forestry needs for our nation, I am confident and positive that our efforts will produce a brighter future for urban forestry in our communities for years to come.

For more information on the summit, please contact Mike Dirksen at (217) 789-2246.