If you see two kids with clipboards inspecting young trees this summer, it’s probably these guys: Avery, 8, and Ian, 6.
Along with their grandmother Maggie Chandler, they’re just three of the 152 trained volunteer Summer Inspectors who will be walking their assigned routes this summer checking trees Friends of Trees planted last season.
“She’s in second grade, and he’s in Kindergarten,” Maggie says of her grandkids. “They’re serious about it. They’re good tree checkers.” Maggie started volunteering as a summer tree inspector in 2010. After the first year, she started bringing along Avery, then only 5.
“I get to meet new people and I get to take care of Portland by making sure trees are healthy,” Avery says. “Portland is my home, and I want to keep it healthy.”
This year, her brother, Ian, 6, is joining the fun.
“I like being with trees,” he says. “I want to work with Avery, and also I just want to go places I’ve never seen.”
At each tree on their assigned route, the team—Team Good Tree Checkers or “TGTC,” they call themselves—goes through their checklist. First, the kids poke down into the soil to gauge moisture levels. They check for proper mulching, the presence of suckers, and encroaching grass and weeds. Then they inspect the bark.
“Avery is really good at spotting bark damage,” Maggie says, such as from a Weed Wacker.
Next they inspect the canopy, looking for signs of pests or disease like leaf curling or powdery leaves, and checking for dead branches. They also leave behind summer tree care tips and answer questions residents have.
“Homeowners love to talk about their trees,” Maggie says.
Though she’s only 8, Avery isn’t shy about giving homeowners tips about watering and mulching.
“She gets right in there, explaining to a resident with a tree that it’s really important to get some mulch down there and keep those roots cool and moist.”
Most of the new trees are healthy and just need a little extra water and mulch. The team recently found a tree that isn’t going to make it, despite the homeowners’ best efforts, and reported this to Friends of Trees staff. This is rare, but when it does happen, Friends of Trees may be able to replace the tree for free.
Maggie helps the kids keep a list of trees they’ve inspected, so as they grow up, they can go around the city and feel connected to Portland.
“I want the kids to have a stake in their community and to know that’s important work,” she says.
Note: In 2013, 97 percent of new neighborhood trees survived—an exceptional rate of success. You can read about the 2013 neighborhood trees monitoring results here.