Speakers dig up tree information

AK Pachla, Copy Editor

Bakersfield College hosted its first ever Urban Forestry Summit on Feb. 27 in the Fireside Room.

The event was sponsored by the Tree Foundation of Kern, BC Horticulture and Forestry, and the California Landscape Contractors’ Association.

Tree Foundation executive director and certified arborist Melissa Iger is proud of the summit, but wishes the messaging had been stronger.

“It’s probably about 50 people,” she said of the turnout. “I had hoped for more, especially people that are interested in gardening and homeowners so they could learn the right way to take care of their trees.”

Founded in 1993, the Tree Foundation of Kern has been dedicated to promoting environmental health in the Bakersfield area by educating people on planting and maintaining trees in their neighborhoods.

Since then, the Tree Foundation has planted more than 14,000 trees in 400 different locations around Kern County.

Iger describes urban forestry as “taking care of the trees in an urban area. It’s a type of forestry,” she continues, “but it’s not like, [big tree] type forestry. It’s the forrest that surrounds us.”

At the summit, arborists, forestry experts, and urban landscapers presented tips and techniques for how the average homeowner can make the most of their property, including what kinds of ornamental plants thrive best in our desert valley climate, ideal watering practices, and solutions to common plant problems encountered by landscapers and homeowners.

Iger’s commitment is to more than just beautification and lifting property values.

The urban forest cools the ground, protects soil, and provides a significant percentage of the oxygen we need to survive.

Learning to care for trees is important, Iger says, “because you’re also taking care of the air we breathe, and there are a lot of mental health benefits and social benefits to trees besides just the environmental benefits.”

Iger is looking forward to the future and to building the presence of the summit in the community.

“I’m thinking about it. I think it would be a good thing. More advertising so we could reach more people would be great.”

Anyone interested in learning about the Tree Foundation of Kern or the practice of urban forestry can visit www.urbanforest.org.