Q&A: Tom Rippeon, Arborist for the City of Frederick

Posted on 04.29.15 – Insider, People & Places, Q&A

What are your primary duties as city arborist and how long have you been on the job?
During the past 14 years I’ve been responsible for the care and management of publicly owned trees within the City of Frederick. On a day-to-day basis I oversee the planting and maintenance of trees to ensure their continuity and health along city streets, parks and related areas. Additionally, I collaborate on the landscape designs of those public areas.

My work involves frequent interaction with the public; providing education and assistance to individuals, businesses, organizations and other city departments relating to arboriculture, forest insect and disease management, tree valuation, tree risk assessment and management, landscaping, and tree preservation. Simply put, I am the liaison between the trees and the public.

What are some of the best trees to have in a city and why?
The City of Frederick benefits from a tree canopy that tolerates compact, infertile soils—which is the typical soil environment found in most cities, along streets, and sidewalks. Trees that can thrive in these conditions are considered to be the most adaptable of all trees in an urban environment. My personal favorites that can thrive in an urban environment are the White Ash and the Princeton Elm.

Unfortunately the Ash trees have become victim of the Emerald Ash Borer, which is destroying the majority of the canopy. I also favor planting native species. It’s imperative to ensure the suited location will allow enough ample space for the tree to grow. The overall goal when choosing trees is to diversify the urban forest, using multiple species and varieties. Diversity is vital not only on a neighborhood scale but to the city as a whole. Currently we plant more than 80 species of trees.

What is the biggest threat to trees in Frederick?
Space. As the urban community grows, the demand for space for new homes, infrastructure, road work, utilities, etc., tends to overshadow the space for trees. With the constant changing of the urban setting, trees no longer have the space they need to thrive and reach the maturity when they are most beneficial.

Frederick has been a Tree City for more than 30 years. What does this mean?
Currently we hold the reign in the state for receiving the Tree City USA award. In order to be recognized as a Tree City USA through the Arbor Foundation and the National Association of State Foresters, the city has had to establish the following: A Tree Board or Department, a Tree Care Ordinance, a Community Forestry Program with an annual budget of at least $2 per capita and an Arbor Day observance and proclamation.

This year the city will be celebrating its 35th Arbor Day, which will be held April 10 at Hillcrest Elementary School at 10 a.m. This celebration is just one way the city has dedicated itself to allocating and using funds for arboricultural needs, raising public awareness of tree-related issues, educating students/citizens and providing care for trees in the community.

How many Magnolia trees are actually on Magnolia Avenue?
There are about a dozen deciduous and evergreen Magnolia trees on private property along Magnolia Avenue. Unfortunately, the Magnolia tree is a species that requires too much space to be a successful, thriving street tree on Magnolia Avenue.