Street Tree Assessment Team – STAT

If you are interested in trees and the beauty of our city, then you might consider volunteering for STAT – the Street Tree Assessment Team! STAT volunteers share time throughout the year to monitor and care for young trees planted along Columbia’s streets. We are accepting interested only due to the program being filled at this time. Let us know if you are interested in being placed on a waiting list.

Need for the Program

The planting of street trees within the public right of way has been, and continues to be, demanded by the city council on many of the City’s new road construction projects.  In 2006 the appraised value of Columbia’s existing street trees was estimated at $251,636 by forestry consultants SKA; this figure does not include the value of the environmental services provided by the tree stock.  There are now approximately 1,500 planted street trees within the city, with up to 100 being added every year. 

All of these trees, excepting those planted within the downtown area, remain unmanaged during their establishment – being generally the first 5-years after planting.  This has led to a high rate of stress, damage and mortality in the tree stock, and in turn led to entire planting projects falling into decline and disrepair.  Some specific problems are: lack of regular inspection and reporting of disease and damage; damage to trees from mowing equipment; no formative pruning of trees; no mulching of young trees; damage to young trees from staking support equipment.  Most of the skills required to keep these trees alive and in adequate health are easily learned and require no specialized equipment. 

Objectives of the Program

  1. To assist in providing a healthy street tree canopy for the future by ensuring that stress, damage and mortality to the public tree stock is minimized.
  2. To provide support to the Public Works Department in managing trees within the public right of way.
  3. Advancing a sense of civic ownership in the city environment by taking advantage of the great citizen interest in landscaping and city beatification.
  4. To further encourage the public to learn the basic elements of tree care and to put this knowledge into practice.

Elements of the Program

a).  The priority for this program is to train volunteers to inspect and report on the condition of street trees for the Public Works Dept.  An approved course of action that affects the health of the trees may then be agreed by the City Arborist.

b).  City of Columbia staff have organized the program, which includes advertising the program; placing and maintaining a register of volunteers.  They also select suitable street sections for the volunteers and organize record keeping regarding hours worked.

c).  The City Arborist provides volunteer training, allocates work tasks and monitors the completed work.

d).  Work tasks are specified and monitored in order to prevent actions, or the use of equipment, that may be dangerous to participants and highway users.

e).  Volunteer projects are limited to street sections with newly planted trees, being  trees generally planted within the previous 5-years and/or with a trunk diameter of 4-inches or less.

f).  The volunteers receive on-site training from the City Arborist throughout the year and an information packet on tree care tailored to the particular demands of newly planted trees.

Work Tasks and Tools

Below is a list of the tasks that may be asked of the volunteers, with a list of the tools and equipment they may be expected to use to complete the tasks.  All watering of the trees will be completed by City staff or their contractors.  No use of chemicals, or chemical applications for tree health, will be used within the program.

Personal protective equipment (Safety vest, Safety glasses, Work gloves) will be supplied by the City.  If required, and subject to budget restrictions, the City may provide some of the tree care materials mentioned below.  Volunteers will be asked to provide tools for the work tasks, all of which are commonly used within household & yard.

Tree inspection

a.)  Map trees, or modify city maps, that identify the location, species and dimensions of trees on the public right of way.  Tools:  Paper maps, pencils, tape measure.

b).  Inspect tree for damage, ill health, and identify potential and actual stressors. Examination of leaves, trunk, root collar; report this information to City Arborist.

Pruning

Controlled removal of dead, dying or rubbing branches.  All these tasks are to be performed from ground level without the use of ladders or platforms.  No mechanical or hand saws will be used, which will limit the size of branch removal to 1.5inches diameter.  Tools: Hand pruners, Loppers (No mechanical saws or hand saws)

Trunk Protection

a).  Installation or removal of general trunk protection material such as plastic tubes, plastic or paper wrap, burlap or latex paint.  Tools:  Wrench, pliers

b).  Installation or removal of plastic tree guards to lower trunk to prevent weed-whip damage.Tools:  Wrench, pliers

Tree Stakes and Ties

Secure in place, re-set, or remove, tree ties or stakes. All metal stakes will be carried from the site by city staff.  Tools: wrench, heavy pliers, heavy hammer, wire cutters, planting spade

Weeding

Weed removal is done from within 3-ft of tree stem.  This should be done by hand and only work gloves are required.  Hoes or other digging tools are not to be used.

Mulching

Replacing mulch around trees using wood chip provided by the city and brought to the site by city staff.  Tools: rake, wheelbarrow, trowel

To Learn More…

Contact the City of Columbia Volunteer Programs at 573-874-7499 or volunteer@como.gov or Chad Herwald, Arborist in the Public Works Department at 573-874-6357.