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Meet DCNR’s TreeVitalize Staff

March 23, 2022 12:00 AM

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Two of DCNR’s newer employees are here to make an impact across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in maybe the greenest way possible -- helping people understand the importance of trees in our lives and our world.

Meet Ned Brockmeyer, manager of the TreeVitalize program, and Kalaia Tripeaux, the first TreeVitalize tree equity specialist.

Both carry a passion for nature and an even greater purpose of sharing their knowledge and understanding with anyone who will listen, making them a great pair to steer this critical program within DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry.

Planting and Maintaining Trees Where They are Most Needed

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TreeVitalize is a public-private partnership established by DCNR to help build capacity within communities to plan for, plant, and care for trees; and to offer educational trainings to help citizens understand the diverse benefits of trees and the importance of properly planting and maintaining them.

TreeVitalize offers a broad range of services to support sustainable urban and community forestry programs across the state.

Trees are critical to our environment and provide tremendous ecological value to our planet. They help provide oxygen, improve air quality, absorb carbon dioxide, decrease pollution, moderate effects of the sun, wind and rain, preserve soil, support wildlife, and so much more.

With the development of modern cities, many urban areas lack the tree cover needed for people to live healthy, safe lives.

“I would like people to start thinking about trees holistically, from seed all the way to death and carbon sequestration,” Brockmeyer said. “There is a cycle that goes along with it and I [think it’s part of our mission to explain that].”

Resources to learn more about trees:

Kalaia’s position as a tree equity specialist was created to have a more direct impact in urban communities.

TreeVitalize has always worked towards an equitable canopy, and saw an opportunity to create a position that would focus on best practices and effectiveness in providing equitable services and environmental benefits across the commonwealth.

For Ned, that includes getting people to understand the purposes of trees, whether that is helping protect clean air or our water, serving as valuable infrastructure to communities, helping increase property values, providing equitable environments to all communities, and so much more.

The value of trees cannot be understated, Ned preaches, noting that his message is more of a mechanical way of looking at trees and their value. That’s where Kalaia and the team-centered nature of the TreeVitalize program approach comes in.

“In order to make the outdoors more accessible, we have to reach people differently,” Ned says, adding that Kalaia brings a face and perspective to the work. If Ned is the brain, Kalaia is the heart. Both serve vital roles and are critical to TreeVitalize.

They use their education, experience, and respective backgrounds in a way that allows them to connect and make an impact authentically.

“Teamwork makes it happen,” Kalaia says.

Ned Brockmeyer -- TreeVitalize Program Manager

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Brockmeyer was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Pittsburgh where he again resides. He comes to the department after a rather circuitous path that includes time at Colby College, where he received bachelor’s degrees in fine art and German studies.

Following graduation, Ned took a job managing youth programs for the Major League Soccer stalwart DC United where he spent a lot of time outdoors and realized he had an interest in working in the field.

After obtaining a master’s degree in landscape architecture at Ball State University in Indiana, Ned worked for nonprofits in various roles in Indianapolis and Pittsburgh helping promote the importance of trees and connecting with urban and suburban communities.

He has been with DCNR for a little under three months and is eager to connect people to nature in his new statewide position.

“I know the positive benefits the outdoors has on me and I want to share those positive benefits with others,” Brockmeyer said, noting that he wants people to make the connection between the value and importance of trees in cities and at parks, as much as they do those with large forests.”

Kalaia Tripeaux --TreeVitalize Tree Equity Specialist

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Kalaia has had a little more time with the TreeVitalize program, having joined DCNR about 8 months ago. A native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Tripeaux credits a Southern University recruiter with helping spark her interest in exploring nature as a career path.

That recruiter pointed Kalaia towards agriculture, which is traditionally a white, male field of study, and said she could bring a unique perspective and representation to the field.

The recruiter’s message stuck. Kalaia went on to study urban forestry, completing her bachelor’s degree at Southern University, a historically Black University in her hometown.

Following graduation, Kalaia traveled north to attend Penn State University where she obtained dual master’s degrees in forest resources and human dimensions.

For a brief time prior to being hired by DCNR, Kalaia taught nineth and tenth grade environmental science. Now, she is helping people understand the relationship between people and natural resources through community-based work as the TreeVitalize tree equity specialist through a hands-on approach.

“If (members of the community) don’t know how to plant a tree, we’re going to start with the basics: ‘This is how you plant a tree in written word. This is me teaching you. This is me working with you to do it so we can build things up,” Kalaia says.

Understanding the Importance of Trees

 Image of the sidewalk parallel with the Benjamin Franklin Parkway leading towards the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Ned sees this opportunity with TreeVitalize to building the connections that take TreeVitalize to another level. Both Ned and Kalaia understand the importance of protecting trees, but also promoting the work of the TreeVitalize program.

A greater understanding of what the program does and who it serves will create more successful outcomes, ranging from grant and other funding opportunities to ensuring trees get the necessary maintenance early in their lives.

To learn more about TreeVitalize, including opportunities to volunteer and support tree planting in Pennsylvania, visit DCNR’s website. For more on trees in Pennsylvania, check out DCNR’s Tree Map.

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