Former graduate student intern Myles Ritchie, who created the Exceptional Tree (ET) map in June by visiting
nearly all the 700 ETs statewide, has returned this month to build on the valuable work he has done so far.
To see a great example of Myles' work with ETs see his short video at: https://youtu.be/mLaXRa2Memo
Myles' role is mainly outreach into the community to raise awareness of ETs, not just among the
public, but also among professionals like landscape architects, arborists and tree trimmers.
An example of what is included in his new program will be a presentation at the retirement home
Arcadia in early September. Myles will discuss the value of trees using the data he has assembled so far, then he will discuss the many trees on the Arcadia property.
If there is interest and it is appropriate, he will encourage the Arcadia residents to nominate trees on their
property as well in their close-in neighborhood.
TOC Programs Manager Myles Ritchie has spent several months tromping all over the state to digitize and update TOC’s landmark Exceptional Tree map. Volunteers have helped in identifying these trees for Myles to map.
Up mountains, down into valleys, through jungles and open fields, Myles has been a stalwart in identifying and mapping these wonderful trees statewide.
It is important to keep in mind, however, that while the map is a great guide for all of us who want to admire these treasures, Myles' work is much more than pins stuck on a map.
What he is doing for each of these over 700 trees is to scientifically formulate the value—the worth, the benefits—to all of us. These benefits include: financial savings, storm water runoff diversion, energy conserved, and the reduction in atmospheric carbon. Pinpointing the benefits of these trees provides a basis for each of us to realize the worth of all trees, even those that grow in our own yards.
As an example, trees offset the heat island effect by reducing the average temperature under a tree canopy by 5-10 degrees. Apply that to your yard and you realize your own trees are probably keeping your house cooler. Even if your house is air conditioned, your trees still mean less strain on the AC.
And next time you are cruising around in your air-conditioned car, consider that a tree canopy over the road reduces the surface temperature by 35 degrees. Saves tremendously on tires. And roads don’t get as beat up.
Stay tuned as we put together a video showcasing Myles' recent statewide effort.
The Outdoor Circle applauds the Honolulu City Council and Mayor Caldwell for passing the Exceptional Trees bill. From the City & County of Honolulu Press Release:
Honolulu – Mayor Caldwell today signed Bill 84 (2014), CD1 into law, amending the city’s register of exceptional trees and clarifying the powers, duties, and procedures of the Honolulu Arborist Advisory Committee.
“O‘ahu’s exceptional trees are an important part of our history and identity,” said Mayor Caldwell. “It’s our responsibility to protect them as a part of a lasting legacy to our fragile environment and to the people who live here. I’m grateful to the Outdoor Circle, Department of Parks and Recreation, Arborist Advisory Committee, owners of property where these precious trees are located, and the City Council for working together to craft this important update. Bill 84 helps keep our island home clean, green, and beautiful for generations to come.”
Bill 84 was introduced by request of the Department of Parks and Recreation and supported in testimony by the Outdoor Circle. With a 9-0 vote on May 6, 2015, the bill was unanimously adopted by City Council and sent to Mayor Caldwell for his signature.
The bill adds 36 notable trees and a grove of 8 palms to the register of exceptional trees. The newly-designated trees include: historic trees at Washington Place linked to Queen Lili`uokalani, a grove of `Ohe Makai trees at Waimea Valley, and trees at several homes listed on the National Historic Register, such as the Cooke Estate in Mānoa. The property owners are commended for their diligent work in assuring that these truly exceptional trees are preserved for future generations to enjoy.
Additional highlights of Bill 84 include:
Honolulu Community College (HCC) is home is to an epic true banyan tree with a storied history intertwined with TOC and the urban growth of Honolulu. If you haven't seen it, take a minute to swing by Kokea Street to take note.
HCC is preparing to build a new structure on campus in what is currently a tree-filled parking lot. The Outdoor Circle consulted with the Administration on the project proposal and this what we learned:
We strongly urged HCC’s Administration to find a way to keep the banyan tree and build their ATTC building. Current plans call for the building to be next to the banyan tree. Because banyans have aerial roots, it is possible to trim the banyan and train it to grow into the courtyard and away from the new structure.
This banyan has storied roots. It is the last known survivor of six cuttings taken from the banyan tree that once stood at King and Keeaumoku Streets. The Outdoor Circle fought long and hard to save that 100-year-old banyan tree from the widening of King Street. After a year-long effort, the wider road won and the tree was unfortunately removed. Before it died, however, six pieces were carefully cultivated and re-planted around Oahu in 1968. The only cutting known to have survived is this tree in the parking lot of Honolulu Community College.
This historic tree provides extremely valuable environmental services (for free), including sequestering carbon, capturing stormwater, and providing shade that reduces energy costs.
It would be a shame to lose such a value member of our urban forest, especially in these days of increasingly hot days in the city. If anyone is interested in helping to see how to save this tree and build the new ATTC structure at HCC, please click here to send us a note.
By Myles Ritchie
“What is ground-truthing? The easiest response is that ground-truthing is physically going to the desired object (in this case an Exceptional Tree) and obtaining the data in person that confirms previously collected data, or generates primary data that has never been collected for the specific target.
The Outdoor Circle began its initial tree mapping process with two graduate students from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Nate and Spencer. The two of them worked together to complete Phase One of the project, which involved inputting previously collected data about Hawaii's Exceptional Trees into an open-source program called “Google Fusion”.
Phase Two, which we are currently in, involves verifying or "ground trotting" all of the data inputted during Phase One. Much of the data is outdated. The Exceptional Tree Act was enacted in 1975 and counties have had varying success maintaining their paper records of protected trees. The results have been typical of what is to be expected with data collected long ago: removed/dead trees, inaccurate coordinates, etc.. This just further demonstrates the importance of the ground-truthing process is when it comes to generating an accurate map for the public to use.
Ground-truthing requires a GPS unit, a tree-height finder, and an industrial tape measure to get the circumference of the tree. It is faster to ground-truth trees with another person and it provides a second opinion. A second opinion is important when assessing the condition of a tree, and deciding which new trees should be potential nominees. Also, the average park-goer might be curious and want to ask questions. By having a second person, the ground-truthing tasks can still be carried-out by one individual (although slower), while the other does the equally important task of educating the public on our goals for this project. As a side-note, by having two or more individuals mapping, it also makes the process safer and a lot more fun!
On March 4, I (along with three other incredible OC members) went to Hawaii Island to collect data for the map, and I am proud to say that Phase Two for the entire island was completed. Furthermore, I would like to say mahalo to our #GIVINGTUESDAY donors. Your donations helped pay for an experience that I will use in my future career as an environmental impact researcher, which will involve documenting and mapping the various ways humans impact the environment. From this, the goal of implementing positive changes to current policies and practices regarding environmental conservation is something I am extremely passionate about and look forward to accomplishing.
About the Author:
Myles serves as Programs Intern for The Outdoor Circle. He received his bachelor’s degree in Environmental Geography along with minor degrees in geology/geophysics and history. He is studying for his master's degree at UH-Manoa in Geography. He is from Toronto, Canada.
You are going to learn a lot about us in this issue of our GreenLeaf!
Our tree preservation efforts and planting projects have kept the branches busy, and the advocating for open space protection, clean and green parks and public spaces, and signs concerns have kept our office busy. It continues to amaze me how our Executive Director Marti Townsend orchestrates the many functions that create the strong canopy of The Outdoor Circle, state-wide!
We share a collective mahalo to Noelani Sugata for her decade of service to our office. We welcome in our new office staffer Renee Nakagawa. We also bid a fond aloha to Gloria Taaffe, our tree mapping intern who will be leaving next month to finish her schooling from Florida. We are especially pleased that intern Myles Ritchie is going to stay on as Project Intern to help us finish our statewide tree mapping project. We are learning so much about the importance of the Exceptional Trees all throughout our beautiful islands.
We are looking forward to honoring Beatrice Krauss, Hawai'i's most beloved ethnobotanist, this Earth Day, April 22. Her legacy of ethnobotanical knowledge and public service lives on through her publications, course materials, plant collections and gardens, like the one at Lyon Arboretum. Bea enriched the lives of thousands of students, colleagues, friends and community groups by her teaching and spirit of aloha.
This is another in our series of micro-fundraiser Garden Tours. If you have a garden or know of one that can be the site for a Micro-fundraiser Garden tour, please let me know. It is a great way to discover more about the flora of O'ahu, meet new friends, and help support our efforts at keeping Hawai'i clean, green, and beautiful. Each tour is different but they are under 30 people, and sell out right away. Would you like to help us with a special Garden Tour in your neighborhood? We would love to hear from you!
I am so grateful to have such a hard working Board of Directors, who volunteer their expertise to best serve our nine Branches and the mission that has guided TOC for over one hundred years. I hope you will join us, reaffirm your membership, and consider volunteering through one of our Branches.
by Myles Ritchie, Graduate Intern
Natural, beautiful and majestic: these are the characteristics defining the many varieties of Exceptional Trees throughout Hawai`i. From koa to monkeypod, this state is fortunate to have trees that are not only aesthetically pleasing, but extremely beneficial to society.
Knowing the location and physical characteristics of the various exceptional trees across the state is crucial to documenting and understanding the benefits of protecting our urban trees. In response to this need, The Outdoor Circle has begun a statewide Exceptional Tree Mapping (ETM) project which aims to do just this with the hopes of maintaining and increasing the beauty of Hawaii.
Benefits of Exceptional Trees
In an ever-increasing urbanized environment, the need for trees (especially exceptional ones), has never been more apparent. In such urban areas, trees can help offset the heat island effect by reducing the average air temperature under a tree’s canopy by 5-10°F and the surface temperature of a paved road by 35°F. Furthermore, these trees are able to not only remove increasing levels of carbon dioxide from our atmosphere and replace it with oxygen, but also other harmful pollutants such as: carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. Trees are also able to prevent stormwater runoff, which is a significant vector for pollutants in streams and nearshore waters. Reducing stormwater runoff occurs as a result of the increase in available permeable surfaces that trees provide when compared to alternatives such as paved roads. The roots of trees also hold valuable topsoil in place, which is essential to the tree’s survival, along with the ability to facilitate future growth of vegetation in the area.
Aside from the benefits trees provide for the environment, they are also helpful when it comes to the mental and physical well-being of humans. Countless studies have shown that surrounding oneself with trees and other natural settings improvements: cognitive function, learning capabilities (especially in children) and memory skills. These studies have also shown that exposure to natural environments reduces stress levels and reduces depression symptoms as effectively as anti-depressants. Most interestingly, studies show that having access to this natural resource helps to facilitate community interaction and involvement.
The Exceptional Tree Act
Established in 1975 with the help of The Outdoor Circle, the Exceptional Tree Act designates an exceptional tree as “a tree, stand or grove of trees with historic or cultural value, or that by reason of age, rarity, location, size, aesthetic quality or endemic status, designated by a county arborist advisory committee as worthy of preservation”. Currently there are over 1000 exceptional trees throughout the Hawaiian Islands; with more about to be added to the registry when Bill 84 adopted by the Honolulu City Council. While the majority of these trees reside on Oahu (926), each of the other major islands also hosts many exceptional trees. Though large, this number does not reflect the many trees in Hawaii that are worthy of exceptional tree status. It is critical to add new exceptional trees to the list through the nomination process.
The nomination process for exceptional trees is a fairly easy process to complete and offers incentives for homeowners wishing to nominate a tree on their property. The first step is for landowners to fill out a tree nomination form. Then, a certified city arborist assesses the tree and the Arborist Committee makes a recommendation to the County Council on whether to recognize the tree. Once approved by County Council, a tree owner can receive a tax break of up to $3,000 every three years. Additional information about the nomination process, as well as county nomination forms are available at this link.
The Exceptional Tree Mapping Project
In response to the need for an interactive map that can be easily accessed by the general public, as well as a database consisting of useful information related to the state’s exceptional trees, The Outdoor Circle has begun its Exceptional Tree Mapping project. Over the next several months, each tree will be verified and data from each tree will be gathered. This process involves physically visiting each registered tree and obtaining various characteristics including: geographic coordinates, height, circumference, condition and any other notable facts when available (year planted, who planted it, etc…). This data is complied into our open-source ETM database. Click here to see the map and learn more about our process.
We need your help
The Outdoor Circle is looking for community support to gather data about these exceptional trees. For those wishing to volunteer, click here, which includes a PDF of how to obtain data in the field, as well as a FAQ section.
The Outdoor Circle will be holding an Exceptional Tree Map volunteer training exercise on Saturday, February 28, 2015 at 9 am outside of the Iolani Palace Band Stand. For those wishing to attend this exercise, please RSVP by emailing TreeMap@outdoorcircle.org and prepare to have an exciting couple hours learning about ground-truthing and other aspects of conducting fieldwork!
With the completion of the Exceptional Tree Map, The Outdoor Circle hopes to increase the number of nominations for exceptional trees, helping to preserve one of the state’s most valuable and beneficial natural resources. The Outdoor Circle hopes to not only provide a valuable resource to the general public who wish to learn more about exceptional trees, but also to identify areas in need of tree nominations. Public participation is essential for the long-term success of the Exceptional Tree Map project and hopefully this interactive map is the first step in obtaining this much desired long-term goal.
As 2014 begins to wind down, we are reflecting on a very successful year for The Outdoor Circle. Please help us celebrate!
From new laws to improve the protection of our environment to on-going beautification projects that improve our communities, we have been hard at work keeping Hawai‘i clean, green, and beautiful. Your donation today will help continue this work for tomorrow.
Here are the top 12 things we are grateful for from this past year.
There is still time to get your donation in and receive a tax deduction for 2014. You can mail your donation check to our office in Honolulu (1314 S. King St. #306 Honolulu, HI 96814) or just click here for a secure and immediate credit card transaction. Your donation benefits the work of The Outdoor Circle and our branches throughout the Hawaiian Islands.
Thank you and happy holidays!
"OUR VIEW: Hawaii's parks need attention"
Editorial from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Saturday, Jun 07, 2014
Thanks to the editorial board of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser for highlighting the critical need to invest in our public greenspaces. Below are excerpts of their editorial. Also, big mahalo to the Trust for Public Land for publishing an excellent report ranking Honolulu against other major cities on the quality of its parks. We could not agree more! With your support organizations like The Outdoor Circle can collaborate to improve public park space throughout the Hawaiian Islands! Click here to show your support!
"As Oahu's population increases and urban redevelopment crowds more people into the close quarters of high-rise living, creating and preserving vibrant green spaces for recreation and relaxation must be a higher priority. It's much better for the city if those green spaces are on ground level, open to all, rather than private aeries limited to the wealthy denizens of a single luxury building.
The Greenleaf is the online newsletter and blog of The Outdoor Circle. Here you will find updates on the projects and accomplishments of our many branches throughout the state, as well as programs with statewide impact.