Inaugural ‘Good Health Grows on Trees’ conference a success!

Whether it be a hike through the woods, time spent with your family at a local park or sitting beneath the shade of that stately red oak in your backyard, we, as urban forestry professionals and enthusiasts, experience and recognize the physical, mental and spiritual benefits of spending time outdoors in nature.

For decades, scientists have been researching and documenting the health benefits that trees and nature provide, and as urban populations continue to rise, the impact of nearby nature on human health has generated a lot of interest in our world of urban and community forestry.

To further that conversation in Wisconsin, the first ever ‘Good Health Grows on Trees: The Influence of Nearby Nature on Public Health’ conference was hosted by the DNR Urban Forestry program at the Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville on May 30th. 

From its inception, this conference was focused on engaging partners and reaching out to new and familiar audiences. Working with a conference planning committee of dedicated partners from diverse professional affiliations, this event was developed to attract attendees from the fields of public health, landscape architecture, urban and regional planning, and urban and community forestry. In addition, a sizeable group of volunteers was recruited from nearby colleges, universities, master gardener groups and other organizations to assist throughout the day.

Breakdown of professional affiliations of conference attendees.

With 125 registrants, it was a full house at the Rotary Gardens and the day was a true success. Keynote speaker Dr. Kathleen Wolf [exit DNR] joined us from the University of Washington-Seattle and was followed by insightful presentations from Wisconsin-based researchers. Attendees closed out the afternoon with an interactive session where they connected and collaborated with others from various professions and areas of the state. The session was professionally facilitated, and the enthusiastic group of volunteers assisted by recording key takeaways at each table. The roar of conversation was remarkable.

A full house at the Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville.

Conference attendees collaborate during the interactive afternoon session.

Thank you to all who joined us at the conference – we are grateful to be among a community of passionate and supportive partners! The DNR Urban Forestry program is honored to host this event and hope it is the first of many to come. From Urban Forestry Team Leader, Jeff Roe, “I want to give a special thanks for all of the hard work and dedication of the lead planning team: Laura Lorentz, Sara Minkoff, Olivia Witthun, Sarah Zimmerman and Kim Sebastian. The hours they put in working with partners and staff to craft the day to be both informative and open for discussions was well spent. I’d like to thank Deputy Division Administrator Mike Warnke for agreeing to give the welcome and joining in the discussions. Thanks to Dan Buckler for being one of our featured speakers – great job! I would also like to thank all of the urban forestry team members and forestry staff that supported this conference.”

Brian Wahl, Brad Johnson, Sarah Zimmerman and Olivia Witthun staffing the registration desk.

Sara Minkoff provides direction to the volunteer crew.

Initial feedback from attendees has been overwhelmingly positive, and the ideas are already flowing for how we might structure the next ‘Good Health Grows on Trees’ conference! If you’d like to learn more about the event you can find presentations, resources, speaker bios and more in the ‘Good Health Grows on Trees’ media collection.

Written by: Laura Lorentz, Urban Forestry Partnership and Policy Specialist, on behalf of the conference planning team: Sara Minkoff, Kim Sebastian, Olivia Witthun and Sarah Zimmerman.

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