Throughout the tree ordinance development process, it’s helpful to provide everyone in the community with information on trees and tree care, project details and progress, and how they can provide their input on tree issues that will be addressed in the tree ordinance.
Creating a common understanding in the community about the functions, benefits and value of trees, the biological needs and limits of trees, and the proper care of trees is essential prior to developing your tree ordinance.
Distribute tree care educational materials early and regularly on:
- Functions, benefits and value of trees.
- Tree care standards.
- Species characteristics and recommendations.
- Tolerance of tree species to construction damage.
If you have information about the current state of the community’s tree resource and status of land development within the community, distribute this information as well.
Produce a community forest fact sheet that includes specific information on the community’s tree resource, including its current extent, condition, benefits and value.
As new information on project progress or direction from the working group becomes available, distribute this information to staff, government officials, and the public. Keep records on project activities, and report these activities to supervisors and public officials as often as they desire or require. Include:
- Working group membership
- Meeting minutes and progress updates
- Assessment results
- Vision statement
- Tree ordinance objectives
- Draft ordinance and major revised ordinances
- Public input opportunities
- Public meeting schedules
The tree ordinance working group, public input meetings, surveys, and the internet can all be used to clarify tree issues and solicit comments on a draft ordinance. Public input is essential in creating an effective tree ordinance that is supported by the community.
People are passionate about trees! When you ask for public input, you will find that many people have strong feelings about tree regulation, both positive and negative. Expect to see this passion in public meetings and don’t let it discourage you or take it personally if you are the coordinator or person responsible for writing the ordinance.
Public meetings should be advertised across the community well before they take place to make sure that interested persons can make arrangements to attend. These meetings should be held at a time when people are generally available. Follow the lead of your community development department or other department that regularly schedules public meetings and find out the when they have had the most success at getting good attendance. Avoid days and times when other meetings or community events are scheduled.
Pick an open evening and set a time after most people have finished work for the day. Send out an initial meeting notice up to two weeks ahead of time (or as required by government regulations) but also send out a reminder two to three days before the meeting.
Incentives, such as providing free tree care educational materials, door prizes, or refreshments can be included to get more people to attend the meeting. In your announcement, clearly state the purpose of the meeting, the location, and the beginning and ending times.
State the reasons why the community is addressing tree regulation at the beginning of the meeting and in any documents you’re placing online for soliciting input.
Maintain control of the input process during the meeting by clearly stating at the beginning how input will be gathered. You might want to include a limit on the amount of time a single individual can speak if you have a larger crowd.
Keep a chart pad handy and enlist one of your working group members to record new issues, ideas and future discussion topics on the chart pad during the meeting. Consolidate this list after the meeting and send out to the working group and other interested individuals.