Who are the Northeast Municipal Foresters?
Years ago, when I was a young forester right out of Michigan State University, I started work for the Village of Mount Prospect, Illinois. I had done well in school but had no practical experience in the field. Soon I was struggling with the realities of my job and feeling really out of my element. One day I got a call from Erwin Page, the forester for Arlington Heights, the town next to mine. Erwin had heard that Mount Prospect had hired a forester, and he offered to introduce me to other area foresters at an upcoming meeting. That was how I first learned about the group now known as the Northeast Municipal Foresters. I owe a real debt of gratitude to Erwin, because this group has had a major influence on my career. In fact, but for the support I received from these foresters, I’m not sure I would even have remained in the field of arboriculture.
The meeting locations and many of the faces have changed since those days in the late 70’s when we used to meet at Hackney’s in Glenview, but the basics remain the same. We are still a group of area municipal foresters who gather informally once a month to network, listen to a presentation, and afterwards have lunch. We usually take the summer months off. There is no cost except for our food, which nowadays is usually five or six dollars for pizza. (I have to admit I still miss those bricks of onion rings from Hackney’s, though!) Depending on the length of the presentation, we sometimes start the meetings now with an “open microphone” session, where members of the audience can bring up any topic for a group discussion.
The meetings cover a wide range of topics of interest to municipal foresters, though other arborists are always welcome to join us. Some recent examples are GIS mapping, tree planting policies, tree hazard assessment, invasive insects, and wood utilization. The speakers are usually researchers, consultants, commercial or municipal arborists, or nursery personnel. Sometimes we hear from other municipal staff such as engineers or human resource professionals. Vendors have also spoken about pertinent issues, though we try not to let the meetings become a venue for sales pitches. The Northeast Municipal Foresters are now considered the municipal branch of the Illinois Arborist Association, and Certified Arborists typically receive CEU’s for attending our presentations.
After we left Hackney’s our “home base” eventually moved for awhile to Oak Lawn, where Heather Green did a wonderful job hosting the meetings. Now our “home base” is at Mount Prospect Public Works, but we move around as needed, depending on who’s speaking.
Over the years I personally have learned a great deal from the presentations, but I’ve gained even more from the many conversations with my fellow municipal arborists. When I’m struggling with a particular issue, it’s great to be able to go to the next meeting and ask the group, “How do you handle this in your town”? Invariably I get some really useful ideas, along with the names of people I can follow up with after the meeting. Many of the successes I’ve had in my career have been based on ideas I’ve gotten from my fellow municipal foresters at these meetings. How wonderful it was to learn years ago that I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel each time an unfamiliar problem arose!
I invite you to join us and see for yourself. Better yet, call up the forester from the town next to yours, or maybe your Park District staff, and invite them along as well. Our meeting calendar is posted on the IAA website, and you can get the announcements emailed directly to you by contacting April Toney at 877-617-8887.
By Sandy Clark, Forestry/Grounds Superintendent, Village of Mount Prospect