Na­tional Ar­bore­tum will host tree-climb­ing cham­pi­onship

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY JA­SON TIDD

Tree pruners in the Na­tional Ar­bore­tum made way Tues­day for an ex­hi­bi­tion, of sorts, next month — in­ter­na­tional tree climbers.

For the first time, the District will host the In­ter­na­tional Tree Climb­ing Cham­pi­onship at the ar­bore­tum July 28-30, while the In­ter­na­tional So­ci­ety of Ar­bori­cul­ture holds its first con­fer­ence and trade show in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal since 1965.

Mem­bers of the of the so­ci­ety’s mid-At­lantic chap­ter pruned dead wood from ar­bore­tum trees Tues­day in prepa­ra­tion for the 60 con­tes­tants reg­is­tered from 13 dif­fer­ent coun­tries.

So­nia Garth, pub­lic re­la­tions and mar­ket­ing man­ager for the so­ci­ety, said the District was cho­sen be­cause it can ac­com­mo­date the lo­gis­ti­cal needs of the con­fer­ence and com­pe­ti­tion while re­main­ing ac­ces­si­ble to the pub­lic.

“And it was the Na­tional Ar­bore­tum, and we bring in an in­ter­na­tional au­di­ence, so it’s a chance for us to show­case the ar­bore­tum,” she said.

Ms. Garth es­ti­mated that about 2,000 peo­ple will at­tend the con­fer­ence and trade show while 500 to 1,000 will at­tend the com­pe­ti­tion. The com­pe­ti­tion and the ac­com­pa­ny­ing ar­bor fair and expo will be open to the pub­lic and will in­clude ed­u­ca­tional ac­tiv­i­ties.

The in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion in­cludes the win­ners of re­gional com­pe­ti­tions. An­drew Du­na­vant and Jo­ce­lyn Lohse will rep­re­sent the lo­cal chap­ter, which in­cludes the District, Mary­land, Vir­ginia and West Vir­ginia.

The com­pe­ti­tion com­prises five events: work climb, be­layed speed climb, se­cured foot­lock, throw­line and aerial res­cue.

Time is a fac­tor but so is tech­nique, said Rob Springer, safety and train­ing co­or­di­na­tor for Bartlett Tree Ex­perts and the lo­cal chap­ter rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the climb­ing cham­pi­onship com­mit­tee.

“It is prob­a­bly the best event for tree climbers be­cause a lot of the new tech­niques that come out ev­ery year, they’re kind of brought to every­body’s at­ten­tion at these events, where we bring peo­ple in from all around the world,” Mr. Springer said. “It’s a fun event. It’s a fam­ily event.”

Ms. Garth said the so­ci­ety’s more than 50 chap­ters and as­so­ciate or­ga­ni­za­tions rep­re­sent 32 coun­tries. The U.S. and Canada com­bined ac­count for half of the chap­ters, and the so­ci­ety is based in Cham­paign, Illi­nois.

The lo­cal chap­ter has two for­mer in­ter­na­tional climb­ing cham­pi­ons — James Earhart (2015) and Mike Cot­ter (1998). Both helped with Tues­day’s prun­ing. Mr. Earhart is the only Amer­i­can to win the men’s divi­sion since 2009.

Point­ing to an ar­borist us­ing a rope and har­ness to “walk” up a tree, Mr. Springer said pro­fes­sion­als have years of ex­pe­ri­ence and use pro­tec­tive equip­ment. They also know how to make proper cuts for climb­ing and can as­sess the health of the tree.

“You got to know how to climb a tree, how to move around in a tree, and then you also got to un­der­stand what to do once you’re in the tree,” he said.

Mr. Springer ad­vised against home­own­ers prun­ing trees them­selves.

“Af­ter a ma­jor storm goes through, every­body’s got a chain­saw and wants to get out there and get in­volved, and gen­er­ally, your hos­pi­tals, they’re pre­pared,” Mr. Springer said. “They know they’re go­ing to see a higher fre­quency of chain­saw cuts.”


Rob Springer, safety and train­ing co­or­di­na­tor for Bartlett Tree Ex­perts, uses a hand saw to prune a low-hang­ing tree branch at the Na­tional Ar­bore­tum on Tues­day.

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