Former staffer confirms existence of Urban Forestry Master Plan

A Sarasota County staff presentation from the June 5 County Commission meeting includes this PowerPoint slide on the value of trees.

Sarasota County Commissioner Joe Barbetta was right: The county does have an Urban Forestry Master Plan.

Demetra McBride, who had served as the county’s manager of urban forestry before she left Sarasota in October 2010, emailed county staff June 11, confirming comments Barbetta had made during the commission’s June 5 meeting.

In fact, McBride wrote in her email, the Urban Foresty Master Plan she had completed had “earned the County a number of state and national acknowledgements and awards. As a technical document, it is extensive and substantive, and identified by the Florida (Department) of Agriculture & Consumer Services, (Division) of Urban Forestry as a primary model and exemplar for the State.”

At the conclusion of a June 5 staff presentation that included a proposal for the development of an Urban Forestry Master Plan, Barbetta was quick to suggest that staff investigate the work McBride had undertaken.

He was concerned “that we don’t reinvent the wheel,” he said, especially as the cost of creating a plan was estimated at $50,000, according to Rachel Herman, a project scientist in the county’s Natural Resources Department.
In her email, McBride wrote that two members of a Sarasota County civic group had contacted her about the commission’s June 5 agenda.

She wrote that the Urban Forestry Master Plan, “which was formally adopted by the [County Commission] in a 2006 meeting, [was] operationalized by a 5-Year Strategic Plan formally adopted by the Board in 2007.”

Referring to the June 5 discussion, McBride continued, “Your current Board item represented the 5-Year Strategic Plan as a successor of sorts to the Master Plan, and noted [the strategic plan’s] expired term (2007-2011). But to clarify, the Urban Forestry Master Plan was developed as a technical and policy guide, and the 5-Year Strategic Plan was the implementation blueprint for the Master Plan.”

In an interview last week, Sarasota County Administrator Randall Reid told The Sarasota News Leader, “I’m always disturbed to find we have a plan that no one knows about.”

He added, “I’d expect my staff to know something I could google myself.”

Barbetta told the News Leader he also “was a little surprised” that current staff did not know about McBride’s work.

In her email, McBride pointed out that, because of the accolades the plan received, “the County’s urban forestry department served as a consultant to a number of other cities and counties in the State.”

She also noted in her email, “There has not been a great deal of urban forestry research following [the plan’s] adoption, so it is still relevant and quite current with technology on arboriculture and urban forestry masterplanning.”

Moreover, McBride wrote, “The 2006 Urban Forestry Master Plan is also quite complete regarding ecosystem services of the urban forest, whether environmental, social or economic. Again, the majority of research in these areas was conducted between 1994 and 2006, so the County’s Plan should still be relevant and current in this area.”

McBride, who is the director of the Office of Sustainability and Climate Action for the County of Santa Clara, Calif., added that she would be happy to talk with Herman about the plan. She added, “All records and files on the [Urban Forestry] Program were left in clearly-marked file boxes when I left the County, and I hope they may have found their way to you or were kept in the Department.”

Barbetta told the News Leader he did not know who had contacted McBride, but “I’m glad they did.”