Community-led Urban Forest Strategy delivers many positives

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In September 2018, the Town’s Council endorsed our Urban Forest Strategy (UFS). The Town’s UFS is a first of its kind project because from the start till now - in its implementation phase - it has been a community driven process. 

Heather Johnstone, contributor to the Urban Forest Strategy, and now member of the Implementation Working Group, commented that a community led project of this kind has been integral in eliminating some of the challenges in creating a healthy urban forest in towns around the world. 

“The Urban Forest Strategy has been developed using a process known as Asset-Based Community Development (ABDC),” said Heather. 

“This approach involves collaboration between the Town and its key stakeholders - it’s local residents and ratepayers. This strategy was also developed by volunteers with funding from the Town and sees volunteers and community led initiatives that are supported by the Town and other stakeholders to be integral to the successful implementation of the UFS.” 

“The original developers and contributors chose this approach for two reasons - firstly because a community led strategy is created by those who live in the Town, experiencing the impact of less canopy cover from trees and so, willing to go the extra mile to ensure success.”

“Secondly - resources. We knew that and advocated for more resources to go into the actual tree planting and implementation. So, with the community behind it, there are more voluntary, dedicated resources to make our Town’s urban environment healthier and happier. It also helped that they were not paid for their work, conflicts of interest were easily managed” 

The positive benefits for a community led Urban Forest Strategy are many. Our Implementation Working Group shared with us the social impact that this community approach has brought to the Town:

Increased engagement

We saw an increase in community engagement during the consultation and implementation periods. Working Group members who are also community members talk about the strategy on the grass roots levels, encourage more residents and ratepayers to get involved and use their social platforms to raise more awareness. 

Better knowledge about urban forest 

A community led project also means communicating in a language that the broader community will understand. The Working Group has identified many instances where they feel the level of knowledge around the urban forest has increased. This also becomes a form of obtaining new skills for our community members and Town’s staff. 

Stronger relationships

As a volunteer member of Vic Park Urban Foresters and Millennium Kids as well as former volunteer with The Vic Park Collective and Vic Park Trees, Heather Johnstone also commented that there is now a stronger relationship between community members and the Town Staff and Council as we all work hand in hand to create a healthier and happier Vic Park. 

Leading by example

Members of the Working Group and the Town staff have been invited to speak about its community led Urban Forest Strategy around Australia and other parts of the world. This has provided our Strategy with national and international recognition plus expert connections that can help implement our strategy. 

A greener Vic Park in 2019 

In 2019 a record of 1,659 trees and 118,000 shrubs were planted, adding a total of 70,000 square metres of projected canopy to the Town’s urban forest. The increase in planting was due to the delivery of large public greening projects and more street and park tree planting programs, completed together with community members.

On a personal level, Heather commented that the impact of being part of this community driven initiative has been profound. 

“I was very shy and lacking in confidence prior to this project. Now I can get up in front of 300 people and talk about this project with few qualms.” 

Interested in being an Urban Forester and help create a healthier Vic Park? There’s a lot of ways to get involved, with different levels of commitment to suit. Find out more: Get involved in our urban forest