Good and green

Reno’s urban forester says trees improve the environment

Reno urban forestry commissioner Michelle Gilmore works over a flowering plum tree (<i>Prunus cerasifera “Krauter Vesuvius” </i>, to be exact) of a type being placed in Reno parks and schools.

Reno urban forestry commissioner Michelle Gilmore works over a flowering plum tree (Prunus cerasifera “Krauter Vesuvius” , to be exact) of a type being placed in Reno parks and schools.

Photo By David Robert

In a city where trees are considered a precious commodity—providing shade, oxygen and enjoyment for humans, animals and the environment—Reno’s urban foresters could be considered the caretakers.Run by the city of Reno, the Reno Urban Forestry Commission is an advocate for the beautiful trees—159 different species—that grace city parks. According to the city’s Web site, Reno has been a “Tree City” (a designation issued by the National Arbor Day Foundation) for 24 years.

With 65 “landmark” trees—those located “on public property having special status due to age, size, shape, species, location, historical association, visual quality or other contribution to the city’s character"—the commission has its sleeves rolled up and dirt under its fingernails on the threshold of both the 18th annual Earth Day Celebration on April 22 and Arbor Day on April 27.

Michelle Gilmore, along with Judith Harlan, has just been appointed to the Commission. A graduate of Utah State University with an associate’s degree in horticulture, and a certified arborist, Gilmore was a volunteer before being summoned to a commission meeting and discovering that she’d been appointed. The RUFC’s work, she says, is three-fold.

“Our mission is to 1) educate people on trees, 2) how to care for them, and 3) get people involved,” Gilmore explains. “They’re beautiful, but they’re also very good for the environment.”

With a day job at Wright Outdoor Center on the Pyramid Highway, Gilmore has lived in Nevada about two years, and says trees are something we all seem to take for granted.

“I’m still learning,” she says. “[Homeowners] think, ‘I can just go get a tree, plant it in my yard and in 20 years, it’ll provide shade.’ They don’t realize what trees provide for them. It provides oxygen back into the environment. In my eyes, a tree is one of the most beautiful things there is.”

The RUFC will be highly visible throughout April, starting with donation-driven saplings while they last at Earth Day festivities in Idlewild Park—the City’s “official arboretum"—and at Stead’s Desert Heights Elementary School for an Arbor Day ceremony, where they will join forces with students to plant nine trees, including a Scotch Pine, Colorado Blue Spruce, an Autumn Blaze Maple, two ash trees and a fragrant, flowering plum tree.

“There will be a little program, and the kids are going to sing,” she says, adding that volunteers are integral to the Reno Urban Forestry Commission’s endeavors. “The ideal volunteer for the commission is they’ve got to love everything about trees. They need to be knowledgeable and have experience, because people are looking to you for advice on what’s wrong with the tree, what’s the best tree to plant, how to prune trees that they already have.”

Gilmore says there’s a plethora of excellent species that Truckee Meadows tree-lovers should consider planting, though the storybook-like willow, with a voracious appetite for water, is not one of them.

“The roots seem to be more invasive, and they take more water. They’re gorgeous trees, but they just take more work. They [dominate] the soil. They’re high-maintenance.”