n a rainy August afternoon, Michael Dunn meanders through Marshall Square Park on the way to his favorite tree. It’s not the champion blue ash off Matlack Street, with scaly limbs that soar over 90 feet into the air, draped in metal roping to protect it from lightning strikes. Nor is it the petite paperbark maple, its trunk awash in glorious auburn curls of bark. No, his very favorite tree perches unobtrusively here in the southwest corner of the park, its slender green needles just starting to flush with an early-autumn rust. A native of China, the dawn redwood is one of the rare deciduous conifers that drops its needles in the fall. Dunn loves it because it is low maintenance and capable of absorbing a massive amount of water, which makes it a perfect choice for flood-prone locations. “I get lots of calls from people who buy a house with one of these trees in the yard. They want to know what’s wrong with their pine tree — why the needles are turning brown and dropping off in the fall,” he says. “After I explain it, they think it’s the coolest tree ever.” Dunn is the Consulting Municipal Arborist for the Public Works Department, where he focuses on municipal forestry, which includes tree preservation and planning during construction projects. Prior to that, he worked as a consultant, getting his start as a volunteer in 2015. “I was concerned with how things were going,” he recalls. “There was significant canopy loss. Trees were maxing out on soil volume, too large for their space. And the current tree replanting program was just sticking trees in there.” Dunn grew up here and attended Shippensburg University to earn a degree in geoenvironmental studies, during which time he spent summers at the U.S. Forestry Academy, taking courses and working with a crew, which led to a full-time gig after college for six years. He also spent six seasons in Flagstaff, Arizona battling wildfires as a member of the Mormon Lake Hotshots,
an organization he characterizes as the “Army Rangers of firefighting.” With more than 20 years of experience, he now works for Bartlett Tree Experts, and also runs a side business, Brandywine Urban Forest Consulting. Today, Dunn is committed to maintaining and growing West Chester’s shade canopy, and in the process, protecting a legacy of historic specimens while fostering an innovative preservation plan for the future.
Michael Dunn is the Consulting Municipal Arborist for the Public Works Department
DEEP ROOTS West Chester boasts a long and illustrious tradition in horticulture. “Our specimen quality is outstanding,” Dunn says. “Most of our large trees are from the Victorian era, and our major street trees span from Victorian times through the 1960s.”
OCTOBER 2019 THEWCPRESS.COM
Voice of the Borough