Lewiston’s Parks and Recreation Department plans to hire a part-time urban forester in January to help fill a void that has been vacant for months.
Tim Barker, director of the parks department, said Tuesday it has been difficult to find someone with the background to care for Lewiston’s vast parks system and its 7,000 to 8,000 trees.
“We are doing a modified role,” Barker explained. “We will be bringing somebody on in January that will take care of a lot of hazard concerns in the parks and city property. That will be the initial focus, and then we’ll do more with getting back onto schedule with tree pruning.”
Barker said the city has not had a permanent urban forester since Phil Shinn’s retirement in 2017. Since then, the city has contracted with two other foresters and it has been a struggle to find somebody to take the job permanently.
“The hardest part is finding somebody in this region that is a certified arborist,” Barker said. “Originally, we were looking at a contract (forester) for 20 to 30 hours a week. But because it is difficult to find anybody interested … we will bring somebody on in a permanent part-time position, around 20 to 25 hours a week with partial benefits.
“It’s not an ideal situation. We’re just trying to do the best we can with what we have been dealt with right now.”
Barker said he plans to announce the new forester in January.
In the meantime, the new forester will be working with Idaho Department of Lands personnel who have offered to help the city update its urban management plan and get things back in line. Barker said the department will also help train people who are interested in obtaining an arborist license.
“We’d love to have somebody host free quarterly public meetings or workshops related to tree pruning or other topics,” he said.
Some of the new forester’s priorities will be taking care of some of the city’s older trees that need to be replaced. Others that have large limbs that could prove a hazard in high winds are in need of pruning.
The city can assist homeowners who have problems with trees on the city’s rights-of-way but Barker said the city does not get involved in issues involving trees on private property.
“Sometimes I get calls from people whose neighbor’s (tree) limbs are hanging over their fence,” Barker said. “We don’t step in the middle of that. Property owners would have to figure it out.”
The parks department manages 180 developed acres of park land in the city, including 26 parks with playgrounds, athletic fields, two seasonal outdoor pools and water features. The department also provides Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible trails, a recreation center, regional skatepark, pump track, golf course, pickleball, tennis and basketball courts, a historic cemetery and an arboretum.
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