Family tree

By Faith Bemiss

April 27, 2014

Undaunted by cool rain, many Sedalians came to Liberty Park on Saturday to rope up and climb a 85-foot tree with Tree Climbers International, an event sponsored by the Sedalia Tree Board in celebration of Arbor Day.

Sedalia was designated as a Tree City USA five years ago and one of the requirements for the designation is to hold Arbor Day activities. For $10 participants could climb the large Pin Oak tree, receive a 2014-2015 tree calendar with artwork by students of Barney Knight at Parkview Elementary School and receive a tree to plant along with planting instructions.

“Profits go to next year’s Arbor Day,” said Tree Board Chair Kim Graves. “We’re trying to make our day more than a simple observance, we want to make it a celebration of the urban forest.”

Graves quoted Greek poet Caecilius Statius, who said, “He who plants a tree benefits another generation.”

The group had three tree varieties to give to participants on Saturday — Tulip Populars, Swamp White Oaks, and Deciduous Hollies. Last year Graves said the group gave away 1,200 trees; half of them were Northern Red Oak and half Swamp White Oak. Graves explained the city is full of common trees such as maple and ash, but said there’s a need for variety and diversity in case disease wipes out one species. He suggested people plant much less heard of trees such as Black Gum, Swamp Maple, Pecan and Kentucky Coffee Trees.

“These are not trees that are easy to find at the box store,” he added. “We had the nicest Kentucky Coffee Tree, it was on the (old) Smith-Cotton campus and it got cut down.”

He suggested contacting the Missouri Department of Conservation or a local nursery to find diverse and compatible tree species for the area.

Last he said that the city removed 187 hazardous trees and correctly pruned another 3,000.

“These are trees that are in that planting strip along the side walk and the street,” he noted. “And in the public areas there’s trees that the Public Works tend to.”

Public Works Director Bill Beck also attended the event said, “We’ve been a tree city for five years and part of the first year of having a tree board we got a city ordinance passed saying that any trees that are removed from the city right-of-way, be replanted. So if someone has to put a drive approach in or anything like that, or they just don’t like the type of trees and want to take them out, we don’t allow them to just take them out now. By ordinance they have to replant and we have to do the same thing. If we have a dangerous, diseased or dying tree then we replant.”

Conservation of trees are paramount, he added, and Public Works employees have been sent to a three day training session to learn how to properly trim them.

“There’s a very important technique,” Beck added. “I went to a local one day course with a … master gardener, and all I learned is how ignorant I am about trees.”

The highlight of Saturday’s event was being able to ascend a tree with the use of ropes and harnesses, open to both young and old. Midwest Coordinator for Tree Climbers International, David Slane, was on hand to show the public the ropes on how to climb a tree and to educate them on conservation.

“Tree Climbers International is a company that I represent, they’re based in Atlanta,” he said. “And they sponsor this kind of recreational tree climbing, and they also educate people on trees. I’m one of their instructors, I’m trained and I’m based out of St. Louis. In St. Louis we do the Missouri Botanical Gardens, and Shaw’s Gardens and we do programs for the Missouri Department of Conservation.”

Besides representing TCI, Slane, also a Kirkwood dentist, teaches a basic two-day tree climbing course in St. Louis.

“I teach the actual class at my house, I have a big old oak tree in my yard,” he added. “For a two day basic course it’s $400. And then you graduate and you take an exam at the end. And then you’re a certified basic tree climber.”

Slane said the course is required for those who want to be an arborist, one who trims and prunes trees, not for those in the logging industry. He is a certified arborist with the International Society of Arborticulture.

“They are worldwide and a non-profit sponsor of training for tree climbing,” he said. “It’s spikeless, we don’t spike. Like this tree, I worked on a month ago. I came down and stayed with Doug (Kiburz, a Tree Board member) and cleaned it up. And you notice we didn’t spike it, it’s all ropes. And you notice each limb has a little piece of leather if you go all the way up, you’ll see it has a little guard on it. The rope doesn’t burn the limb. We do no harm, we leave it the way we found it.”

Earlier Slane had helped Beth Kiburz descend from 40-feet up the tree. She said it was much more difficult than she thought it would be because of the arm strength needed to propel ones self upward.

“I could feel the strain,” she said.

And although she has a slight fear of heights she said she felt secure with the harness attached. Her father, Kiburz, a 15 year member of TCI, was attending the event and helping Slane secure harnesses.

Steve and Ellen Cross, and their children Megan, 12, and Steven, 9, also braved the chilly drizzle to ascend the tree together. The family had come to participate between softball games said Ellen who is the Sedalia Public Works administrative assistant.

“We’re racing,” added her husband Steve smiling. “She’s insinuated that she’s going to win.”

Kiburz helped secure the family’s harnesses before they ascended, and after gearing up Steve went on to win as he climbed approximately 60-feet or more into the massive oak.

The Sedalia Tree Board’s 2014-2015 calendar can be purchased for $4 by contacting City Hall, 200 S. Osage Ave. For those interested in learning more about Tree Climbers International visit their website at