Nov 3rd, 2010 by Plant Talk
There are many ways to get to the top: you can work long hours, ignore your family, sacrifice, lose sleep, and take classes. But few classes can guarantee as swift a path to the top as the Garden’s Recreational Tree Climbing Workshop. In this amazing class, along with the popular elective Chainsaws – Safety and Maintenance, students learn valuable skills all while getting the best view of the Garden possible.
The Tree Climbing Workshop returns to the Garden this Saturday and Sunday. The Chainsaw class will be offered Saturday, November 13. The classes will be taught by instructor David Fedczuk.
In the meantime, check out this interview with tree climbing expert and longtime instructor of the Garden’s tree climbing courses, A. Wayne Cahilly, manager of The New York Botanical Garden’s Lionel Goldfrank III Institutional Mapping Department. To see a tree climbing student in action, check out this video from Travel + Leisure where portions of this interview were originally published.
1. What’s the history of Tree Climbing at the Botanical Garden?
The New York Botanical Garden currently offers two courses a year on tree climbing: a Recreational Tree Climbing Workshop and Introductory Tree Climbing, a required Horticulture Certificate for students focusing on arboriculture (the study of trees).
The Botanical Garden has been offering a public tree-climbing course since about 1985 as part of the Garden’s Adult Education Program. I took over the course in 1987 and re-constructed it from a recreational course to one with a professional focus covering all aspects of climbing techniques and equipment used in professional tree care. It remained open to the public and I found that over time about half of my students were in or entering the field of arboriculture, and the other half were there for the fun of climbing trees. I stopped teaching the course in 2005, and it returned to the strictly recreational course it is now.
2. What are your tips for successful tree climbing?
Stay alert, stay focused, analyze the situation, apply the safety rules, and then execute the task.
In 18 years of teaching, I never lost a student, had a student injury, or had a student fall; that is a testament to what I taught each and every class.
3. What specific types of trees do you climb?
During my tenure as instructor, I used a variety of trees based on their architecture and climbing difficulty. In the beginning of the course I would select trees with many limbs but that were large and wide spreading so that I could put several students on each tree and keep close contact with them. As the techniques being taught changed each week and the students’ confidence increased, I would select trees that fit the teaching and the skill of the students. Classes in setting ropes would use trees with many crotches; trees used for foot-locking would have limbs that originated well out from the base of the tree so that the student could not use the trunk; classes in limb-walking would return to the large London Plane tree used in the first class which has enormous, wide-spreading limbs and room for seven or eight students at one time.
4. What specific things can you see in the treetops?
- Sights: From the top of the large London Plane tree on the Garden grounds, you can see the George Washington Bridge, Throgs Neck Bridge and Triboro Bridge.
- People: Typically, you see people who do not see you, since most people do not look up very often.
- Animals: Sometimes, startled squirrels; I have also encountered raccoons (which is something you do not want to do), a pair of sleeping flying squirrels (which was too cute), birds nests, and bees nests (another “don’t want to do that very often” event).
When climbing with students I would climb the trees in the morning before class and conduct an inspection, so that my students at the Garden did not encounter animals or bad situations.
6. Any interesting anecdotes to share?
I have taught an interesting array of students in the course of teaching Tree Climbing at The New York Botanical Garden from doctors to a steel worker who had no fear of heights and an amazing sense of balance. Others include:
- A New York State Tree-climbing Champion
- The members of the local fire house who thought it would be a valuable skill to have
- A journalist who had an assignment to write an article on learning to climb trees as an adult, and who after an afternoon of climbing began the process of changing careers and now runs a tree company and teaches at the Garden
- One of The Garden’s current arborists (when he was a New York City Police Officer)
- A New York City weatherman who did his report one day from the top of a tree (along with me and his climbing cameraman)
- The commissioner of the environment for the British Virgin Islands
- A guy who went on to get his masters degree in field ecology and manages a tree company in New Hampshire
I worked on cabling a tree one day for four hours while being watched the entire time by a mother raccoon and four little babies that were living in a hole in the center of the tree below me. Considering the reputation of raccoons and their dislike for tree climbers, it was a bit nerve-wracking, but the babies were cute as a button with shiny eyes and twitchy noses and made lots of “churring” noises as though discussing this strange bird that had landed in their tree.
FONTE: The New York Botanical Garden (http://www.nybg.org)