29 Sep 2015 | President's Perspective: Arborists Need People
Originally published in the Fall 2015 issue of Western Arborist
Greetings from the top of the Matterhorn! No, I didn't actually write this message from the top of the Matterhorn at Disneyland Resort, but it is a great vantage point to view the 'Happiest Place on Earth' and its unique urban forest.
For me, it’s an exciting time to be an arborist at the Disneyland Resort. My fellow Cast Members and I provide the care and maintenance that sustains this magical landscape. Like with any urban forest, our team also is focused on preparing for the challenges ahead. Climate change, drought effects, population growth, introduced pests, etc., have taken a toll on all urban forests and are threatening the existence of forests worldwide. Arborists and urban foresters are needed, perhaps more than ever before, to provide the specialized care and expertise required to sustain trees in developed areas.
Despite my last name, I didn’t always know my purpose in
life was to care for trees. I grew up climbing trees in Washington State,
worked at a local nursery watering trees, and made my way to Humboldt State
University to study amongst the majestic coastal redwoods. At the time, I was
more interested in running cross-country amongst the redwoods than the trees
I took a Botany class from Dr. Stephen Sillett, the noted
tree canopy scientist and professor. I actually failed miserably and said “I’m
going to Disneyland!” Typically, you say that when you win at something, but I
took the opposite approach. Looking back on this, I am always thankful that my
early failure led to my success in a career of trees at the ‘Happiest Place
At the Disneyland Resort I learned the art and science of
pruning topiaries, which led to my love of pruning trees. I became a Certified
Arborist and Certified Tree Worker. This was my introduction to the
arboriculture community. If it were not for my association with WCISA and
involvement at Disneyland, I would not be where I am today.
My first real climb was during an arboriculture class at
Mt. San Antonio College. Bob Bennett, a WCISA member and experienced climber,
showed me the ropes. Bob, incidentally, was recognized for his volunteer
service to the Chapter at the 2015 Annual Conference. After making it to the
top of a large sycamore, I knew this was what I wanted to do.
As I got into the swing of things, I sought every training
opportunity and every bit of information I could get by attending WCISA
seminars and conferences, networking with other arborists, and volunteering to
judge for the Certified Tree Worker exam. I was also fortunate to work with my
mentor, Michael Mahoney, deep in the Jungle Cruise, learning the nuts and bolts
Some of you may have similar stories about how you found
the path to a career in arboriculture. Some by taking the road less traveled ?
others may have taken the main highway. Either way, there were people along the
way that helped mold you into the professional arborist you are today. Whether
it was a fellow arborist in the workplace, a professor at a local college, or
various speakers at Western Chapter ISA regional meetings, your knowledge stems
from the people you encountered along the way. Few people make it solely on
their own. My point is that we need others for support and guidance. The fact
is arborists need people!
I realized early on the importance of WCISA and ISA, its
parent organization, and other professional organizations within the green
industry. They provide a chance to connect with others and develop
Last year our chapter gained about as many members as it
lost, yet the number of Certified Arborists and other certifications have
grown, and attendance at education seminars, workshops, and conferences has
increased significantly. I wonder why that is? I suspect that some people have
simply retired, or that we are seeing new people entering the profession. We
know that there are many arborists out there that are not taking advantage of
membership in our organization, or simply not aware of the benefits that
membership offers. I’m concerned that they are not getting the training,
information and access to the resources needed to advance in this profession
and become competent arborists who can provide appropriate tree care.
With that said, one of my goals as President this year is
to increase chapter outreach to attract the next generation of arborists and
tree care professionals. If we are not successful, our profession will surely
suffer! Our organization and its members must take a more active role in
attracting students and promoting arboriculture as a career choice to people
currently working in the industry as well as to a wider audience.
The following volunteer-based committees: Student,
Membership, Marketing, Women in Arboriculture, Spanish, and Annual Conference,
are working on this goal. But each member, sharing his or her passion and
knowledge with someone else starting out in the industry, or encouraging young people to consider arboriculture a
worthwhile career choice, can do more to accomplish this goal.
Other pursuits we are working on, in a concerted effort
among the board members, the chapter committees, and Epicenter Management,
involve the development and implementation of the Chapter’s strategic plan.
This plan is intended to guide the chapter and better support the membership in
the future. It is also a passion of mine to continue incorporating technology
and collaboration with other green industry professionals to increase the value
to our membership and industry as a whole.
On top of that, we are planning a great annual conference
May 2-5th 2016 at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, California. The
conference theme is “Magic in Our Urban Forest:
Forward Thinking Strategies for Us and Our Trees.” The idea is that
there is magic within our urban forests - the magic you create and the magic
that trees give us. Leading this effort is Nicholas Crawford (conference chair)
and Adam Schwerner (program chair).
With all of that said, I am excited to have a chance to
lead the Western Chapter this year on your behalf. When I first met Rose
Epperson, I was inspired to get involved with the Chapter to give back what
folks like her have given me. I also want to thank all of the many volunteers
that share their passion and that give so much of their time, energy, and expertise, year
after-year, to our organization. I look forward to the exciting year ahead and
welcome you to join us and volunteer within the Chapter.
- Rhonda Wood, WCISA President