On Sunday morning, with her trusty bike and fellow tree lovers, UC Davis urban forestry researcher Julia Bartens began her seven-day, 585-mile Tour des Trees ride through Oregon. The fundraising event will last Aug. 5 to 11.
The annual Tour des Trees is organized by the Tree Research and Education Endowment (TREE) Fund and sponsored this year by STIHL. Participants were required to raise at least $3,500 to take part in the seven-day event, or $600 per day for part-time participants. Bartens said money raised for the event will primarily go to the TREE Fund as well as funding the event itself.
“This fundraiser is from a nonprofit that funds research and education on urban trees,” Bartens said. “And they funded part of my Ph.D.”
Bartens initially lived in Virginia and the Tour des Trees took place there last year. However, she moved to California a year ago to do research at UC Davis.
“It’s in my neck of the woods again, so that’s kind of handy,” Bartens said.
According to Bartens, she has a twofold reason for participating in the Tour des Trees event.
“The athletic part of it – one of the biggest athletic accomplishments of my life – riding almost 600 miles in seven days, that’s huge for me. The other part is raising money and awareness for urban trees.”
Bartens explained when it comes to research budgets, urban forestry is usually the first one to get cut.
“Any federal grants or anything, urban forestry is never as important as it should be,” she said. “But I kind of get that — do you want to fund police or firemen, or do you want to fund urban trees?”
For Bartens, riding in Tour des Trees is her way of helping to getting to the word out about urban forestry.
“Urban forestry is trees in urban areas,” she said. “To me, it’s more of trees that are influenced by human development. There’s a lot that can be done to improve the level of benefits the trees provide to us.”
Bartens said we’re still focused on grey infrastructure – sidewalks, roads, buildings – and we don’t want any of them to be “hurt” by tree roots.
“But how to find the compromise of giving the trees what they need and getting out of the grey infrastructure of what we want, we’re kind of far away from that,” she said.
According to Bartens, the great thing about the event is anyone can participate, but the vast majority of participants are in the same industry.
“So we’re all tree folks who ride their bikes for a week,” Bartens said. “I think it’s a great feeling of community; you’re surrounded by people who think alike and do it for the same reason.”
Currently, Bartens has raised about $3,000 of the $3,500 she needs in donations for the fundraiser. She has until the end of September to raise the money, but would like to achieve this goal by the end of August.
“It’s not a race; you can’t win anything,” Bartens said. “You’re raising money, raising awareness and having a good time.”
CLAIRE TAN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.