Self-proclaimed naturalists in the City of Falls Church may soon have a new volunteer opportunity.
The city’s Tree Commission wants to create a volunteer program where people can assist in counting, categorizing and measuring over 10,000 trees within the city limits. Though the program is still in the works, commissioners said at a meeting Wednesday (Aug. 21) that they want the it to be inclusive of all age groups and time availabilities.
“We are hoping this will be a popular program because you can choose your own hours. You don’t have to come to an event, and you can do it when you find it convenient,” Kate Reich, the staff liaison and city arborist, said.
The commission currently contracts with a pruning company that charges based on tree size, and is hoping to sort tree circumferences into categories, so that the commission can get a more reliable cost estimate for tree care.
While they are still standardizing training and finding a user-friendly way to collect data, Reich said the program should begin in September. The volunteers will be given special measuring tapes that show circumference size so they won’t need to do any extra math.
Amy Crumpton, who is certified by the Arlington Master Naturalist program, will lead the volunteer group.
“The USDA Forest Service has programs they call i-Tree, where they can assess environmental benefits of an urban forest when you plug in great wads of data,” Reich said.
The commission said the new program will work to fill in this database and help the city government calculate the cost of tree care.
Though the database is live now with information gathered from a few years ago, the commission is working to fix some bugs.
Each volunteer will have a login to the system so organizers can keep track of hours and ensure that the user’s data is accurate. Users will also be able to report areas that could use some extra greenery, the commissioners said.
“It would be nice if we could expand it, to say the Boy Scouts or something,” Reich said, adding that this would be a great service opportunity for them.
When the program is finalized, Crumpton will create a SignUpGenius for volunteers. Though they will limit the number of volunteers for beta testing, they hope to eventually expand the network.