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Conservation deputy secretary joins students in Brandon Park for tree inventory

Lauren Imgrund, far right, deputy secretary of the state DCNR, talks to members of the Student Conservation Association before beginning their work at Brandon Park on Monday afternoon. KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

Several young adults were joined Monday by Lauren Imgrund, the deputy secretary of the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, as they took an inventory of Brandon Park’s trees in Williamsport.

They are summer interns in the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps, a Wolf administration initiative offering work experience, job training and educational opportunities to young people who complete recreation and conservation projects on the state’s public lands, Imgrund said.

“This program will help protect and restore public lands while providing young people with the knowledge to be good stewards of our natural resources,” Imgrund said.

Imgrund seemed to enjoy her walk beneath the canopy of trees, which provide shade from the sun, and drop the temperature a few degrees.

She watched as the students checked the initial health or overall condition of the trees and she and others told them what they are doing is valuable experience they can take with them as they pursue careers in conservation and forestry.

The crew, including officials with the Penn State Extension office, took measurements, using tape to determine the trees’ diameters, and marked down where each tree was relative to the park landscape.

They plan to be at the park through Aug. 13 taking inventory, checking the health of the trees and gathering data that will be used to help city streets and parks department to maintain the trees through their lifecycles.

Carter Stackhouse and Haley Mumma of Jersey Shore brought out their tape measure and held their data-collection materials in their hands.

The two had just finished measuring the diameter of the trunk of a tree.

“Some are on their way out, some are good and some are excellent,” Stackhouse said.

The student crew worked side by side with experts in forestry and conservation.

“The pin oaks seemed to be doing well,” Stackhouse said.

He was joined by a group of individuals with the Penn State Extension and Chad Eckert, city forester .

The group stood beneath the shade of the huge Northern Red Oak, which has the largest trunk diameter in the city, Eckert said. They are counting or quantifying the eco-system in the park, an Extension agent said. They will be able to then determine how much oxygen is being emitted from the leaves of the trees and how much carbon dioxide is taken in.

Their efforts are a true “snapshot” of the existing living urban forest that makes up Brandon Park, another Extension agent said.

The park’s western side predominately consists of trees such as sugar maple and the ash, some of which were eaten alive by the Emerald ash borer, an insect that cuts the life of a tree short.

Some of the trees were damaged in summer thunderstorms and others are perishing or flourishing.

The data collection will provide more accurate information.

“We welcome deputy secretary and the students taking inventory of every tree, making sure our trees stay healthy and are very well maintained throughout the lifecycle,” said Mayor Derek Slaughter, who attended the first day of the inventory to offer his support.

City Council previously granted approval of the inventory because the park is in the city and council voted in favor of the inventory because it could both provide the valuable educational experience for the youngsters and provide data that otherwise would be done by city employees.

The city is a gateway to the 2.2 million acres encompassing the Pennsylvania Wilds, according to Meredith Hill, director of the Pennsylvania Wilds program.

The park’s tree health is interconnected to the more broader economic reality of tourism with nearby attractions such as the Pine Creek Rail Trail and Susquehanna River Walk.

“These are trail towns,” Hill said.

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