Dear TreeFolks Community,
Late summer in Central Texas isn’t usually considered the season of new beginnings. The heat and drought take their toll on the natural world, and it feels like dormancy settles in waiting for the first cool breaths of October. But here at TreeFolks, it may as well be the New Year! Not just for me personally, new to TreeFolks, but for the staff and partners as well as we finalize plans for the coming planting season.
I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself to you as TreeFolks’ newest Executive Director. As I begin to become acquainted with the organization’s history, dedicated staff, amazing board of directors and the wider community, it has become apparent to me the sustained levels of energy and commitment that have helped to grow Central Texas’ urban forests over the last 25 years, and I am truly honored to be part of your accomplishment. This Saturday, we’ll celebrate those 25 years with a low-key tree identification walk here at the TreeFolks office and I look forward to meeting some of you there (sign up here).
A little bit about my own history–most of my work and much of my passion has centered on forests, from growing up in old pecan groves in Louisiana to undergrad research in the Mississippi pines, graduate research in the Douglas fir forests and post-grad work in the cypress/tupelo swamps of the Pontchartrain. Time working in urban environments and most recently for the City of Austin’s Watershed Protection Department Policy and Planning section has brought to me a deep appreciation for the role of urban canopy; not only do we know instinctively the importance of the urban forest, recent studies bear out a positive relationship between it and human health, attention span, and even communities measuring as lower in crime and depression. I am moved by the direct impact that TreeFolks has and will continue to have on our lives in Central Texas… and that doesn’t even count what TreeFolks has accomplished with our partners in Bastrop, where the future forests planted over the last few years can begin to be seen as four-foot tall pines amid the devastation wrought by the 2011 fire. What has been done there is nothing less than magical, and we hope you’ll take one of our volunteer opportunities to come out and be part of it.
This year, not only will TreeFolks celebrate its 25th anniversary, but we will also plant our millionth tree in Central Texas! I hope you’ll be on the lookout for an invitation to celebrate that millionth tree with us next spring. In the meantime, this is the season when we firm up our calendars of volunteer opportunities for the planting season (get in touch here!), finalize where we will plant our next 700,000 pines as part of our Bastrop Reforestation partnership, begin to offer this year’s 3,600 NeighborWoods trees to Austin citizens (learn more about it here!), and begin to envision how our programs can grow to serve the wider community in the coming year.
I was lucky to have the opportunity to participate in our recent strategic planning sessions (with the aforementioned amazing board). I can share with you that over the coming years it is our goal to broaden our programs beyond Austin and Bastrop and into the surrounding Central Texas community, and to continue to build a financial base that will allow TreeFolks to persist far enough into the future to see the trees we plant today become the future urban forest. We’ll be searching to expand the board (interested?) and will also be hiring a new Bastrop Reforestation Program Coordinator (apply here!).
In the meantime, I’ll be reaching out to you and getting to know the Austin treehugging community. It is my hope that you’ll give me a call when you can and introduce yourself to me as well, so we can talk about how to grow Central Texas’ forests together.
Yours in partnership,