Outlook Summer 2022

By Rose Epperson on Thursday, June 30, 2022

Outlook Summer 2022 – Reunited (and it feels so good)

We just wrapped up our 88th Annual Conference and Trade Show in downtown Oakland and I have to say – it feels so good to be back together in person. The last two plus years have seriously been…well, exhausting. Al (my husband) and I have been fortunate enough not to contract COVID (knock on wood), but attempting to continue to educate, engage, and inform our membership during all this has been a challenge. I am proud of the programming we have been able to provide. Our two virtual conferences were a hit with a slice of the membership. The online offerings have been filled with noteworthy speakers and timely topics. Our partnerships with our allied organizations have never been stronger. And the board (as a body and by way of committees) continues to do great things for tree care professionals in our western states. Even so, we really have become the 24/7 world that Futurist Ed Barlow predicted as the “new reality” at the CaUFC conference in San Diego in 2007. And yet, we continue to strive to do our best with the hope that each day we, alongside our membership, continue to learn and grow.

They say hindsight is 20/20 and honestly, I couldn’t agree more. Looking back, I am grateful for the lessons learned in both perseverance and diligence. Not to mention the ability to stay nimble and “sway.” The annual meeting in Oakland was the perfect stage to step out and grow! We spent most of 2019 through 2021 planning conferences that took many unexpected turns along the way and despite our efforts ended up being produced 100% virtual. We were disappointed not to be able to provide Molly Sinnott and Jimi Scheid a stage on which to celebrate their ultimate place at the helm of the largest (and many say the best) ISA chapter; nonetheless, we rallied and provided stellar educational and networking opportunities while maintaining the safety of our members. Imagine our trepidation as we embarked on 2022’s event.

Thankfully, this year the conference committee was poised to jump in, roll up their sleeves, and (yet again) remain flexible as we began planning the ultimate experience in a true urban forest (downtown Oakland). High fives all around. Looking back, I’d say one highlight for me was Beattra Wilson’s keynote. I first saw Beattra speak at the Partners in Community Forestry Conference in Irvine in 2018. Her words and passion resonated with me, so when 2022 Conference Co-Chair Sara Davis volunteered to invite her to speak, I was all in! Beattra spoke to us about the importance of “making shift happen” and as I looked around the room of mostly white, over 40 males, I realized – we have work to do. I encourage all of us to educate ourselves in diversity and inclusion and work together to bring a broader voice to the Western Chapter. If you have ideas on how to make diversity a priority in our work, reach out to me; I have open arms, receptive ears, and a broad vision. Let’s work together to make the Western Chapter a success story for Beattra’s work.

Kicking off with our 15th Annual Britton Fund Ride, the week was filled with activity. The presentations spoke to our event theme “Experiencing the urban forest.” Hot topics like climate change and growing trees in harsh environments (sorry for the pun) were presented to a packed house (over 370 attendees including speakers and exhibitors). There were street parties, daily yoga, and even an incredible tree-infused “chill lounge” where you could break up the day’s educational offerings in a peaceful space where music and trees intersected. The City of Oakland’s own David Moore really put his heart and soul into the exhibit, which was supported by Devil Mountain Nursery and West Coast Arborists, Inc. It was truly an experience.

Historian Robert Phillips set up an amazing journey through the Western Chapter’s history. It was a wonderful array of photos, publications, and conference memories that allowed newer members to experience the rich history of the chapter. We honored our 2021 award recipients and shared their important work with the membership (check out the recipients in this issue’s centerfold), celebrated our student scholarship recipients, and even held our first Disk Golf tournament alongside our traditional Tree Fund golf outing. We shared the live experience with members at home through a “virtual experience” this year. And although we had a few interruptions in programing along the way, for the most part the virtual attendees were thankful for the opportunity to be a part of the “experience.” It was a learning opportunity for everyone.               

Once the last box was packed away, I took some time to fill up my own cup. First, Al and I spent the weekend with the TreeCircus at the Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona. Tim Womick’s TreeCircus has been performing the “What do trees give us?” show at the California State Fair since 2007 – in 2009 we added the Climbing Experience with Chad Brey (funded by USFS). In 2017 Grayson Keating joined Tim as the resident naturalist. In 2018 the stage show was invited to the America’s Great Outdoors exhibit at the LA County Fair. We returned in 2019. After a two-year break due to the pandemic, we returned in 2022. This time we added a climbing aspect to the exhibit. Yassy Wilkins from the US Forest Service worked with Renee Hernandez from Fairplex to provide a new stage area and experience to fair goers. “The Stage on the Hill” provided a larger area where we could add in the climbing as well as an “Ask the Arborist” opportunity and a fun and games area. The trees at the location created a shady respite for fair attendees to enjoy the show and to really understand the difference trees make. The exhibit gave local arborists the opportunity to volunteer. Al and I took advantage of the opportunity to be part of the excitement. It was a blast! We even visited with the Tree of Life!

Then, I was fortunate to attend the Irvine Company Horticulture Day, hosted by Nichole Hill, at one of the IC’s fantastic facilities. This was a gathering of Irvine Company partners, contractors, and friends hearing from some pretty outstanding experts. I found Edith Guzman’s talk to be provocative and timely. I noted her concept of stepping outside our own point of view and “considering the pedestrian experience” as something to come back to. We so often forget to consider that part of the equation as we move ahead trying to reach our own goals – when the real target is something entirely different. That was further reinforced by Amir Aghakouvhak’s idea of taking a resiliency assessment to a local level – digging in to see how human activities affect our environment. As the day progressed, Rachel Sitz from Davey Resource Group hit home with the concept that “greener isn’t necessarily healthier.” Right? Let’s not lose sight of the forest (or the trees). The day rounded out with my good friend and longtime colleague, Dave Teuschler from Devil Mountain Nursery, sharing some wonderful new tree selections with the group. When I say fill up my own cup, I mean it really was running over.

I am so proud of the Epicenter team who supports the chapter’s activities. It’s tough to slide back in after a two-year hiatus but they did it without a hiccup. From registration to exhibits to speakers to silent auction – Team Epicenter hit the target on delivering the ultimate experience to our members and attendees – so grateful for their hard work.

I want to take a moment and thank Doug Wildman, WCISA President 2021-2022, for his leadership. Doug brought such a positive energy to the board. He was flexible, passionate and always available to interact with committees, volunteer leaders, and my team too. It was a pleasure. We look forward to continuing to “dip our toes” into face-to-face events and activities, but assure you we will continue to make the health and wellbeing of our membership our first priority.

Looking forward to reconnecting soon.

Stay curious,