August 4, 2008

Chattanooga: Reflection Riding Readies for Arboretum Recertification

By Kathy Gilbert, Chattanooga Times/Free Press, Tenn.

Aug. 4--Reflection Riding Arboretum and Botanical Garden is up for recertification, so officials are out at the 300-acre preserve counting and identifying all trees.

The process involves more than pinning labels to trees, said Chattanooga Urban Forester Gene Hyde, a member of the recertification team and a former Reflection Riding board member.

"It would be great to do a GIS (geographic information system) inventory of all the trees and add signs that tell about the historical, medicinal and cultural significance of the trees," Mr. Hyde said.

Arboretums are tree-covered areas serving educational, scientific or aesthetic purposes, according to the nonprofit Tennessee Urban Forestry Council. The council works with the Tennessee Federation of Garden Clubs to certify state arboretums at one of four levels. Reflection Riding is certified at Level 4, the highest level.

To attain Level 4, an arboretum must offer at least 120 labeled tree species, a self-guided tour pamphlet, staff or volunteers willing to give group tours and a biannual newsletter.

Besides Reflection Riding, two Level 4 arboretums exist in East Tennessee -- one at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City and one at the University of Tennessee Forestry Experiment Station and Arboretum in Oak Ridge.

All certified arboretums must be recertified every five years.

Five years ago, Reflection Riding Arboretum and Botanical Garden was designated a Level 4 arboretum under the council's program, with about 140 labeled tree species.

Late last month, volunteers began working on the recertification project.

Officials said some signs identifying tree species need to be repaired and others replaced. Some species would benefit by the labeling of the most attractive examples, said project leader Carl Absher, a Reflection Riding board member and certified arborist.

The recertification process may be finished in about six weeks, Mr. Absher said.

More volunteers will be needed at that time for repairs and new sign posting, he said.

Participating in the recertification process is educational, some volunteers said.

"It was fantastic experience," said Jill Whitaker, a master's degree student in environmental science at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. "We identified different species of trees, and we had to make sure the trees were in good shape and labeled and identified correctly. It was very organized, and everyone was extremely helpful."

While the recertification team hopes to improve the arboretum, Chattanoogans can use Reflection Riding right now, Mr. Absher said.

Anyone wondering, for instance, how a bitternut hickory, dawn redwood, American beech or shadblow serviceberry looks simply can seek out existing labeled trees along the arboretum's main trails.

"Wherever you go, you hear people say, 'What's this tree, what's that tree?' Well, we did the work for you," Mr. Absher said.


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