As Rose city’s city arborist, Jeff Tarling has actually supervised the growing of hundreds of trees, constructed almost a lots neighborhood yards, checked out institutions throughout the city and also led the clean-up after significant tornados.
Yet after 34 years benefiting the city, Tarling, 67, is preparing to retire at the end of the month.
“I assume it’s time for a little modification,” claimed Tarling in a meeting Tuesday at his workplace on Canco Roadway. “At one factor you assume you can maintain choosing a long period of time, yet after that you assume, ‘Possibly there are various other points you can do.’ Thirty-four years is a long period of time.”
Tarling manages administration of city trees and also cultivation at parks, play areas, institutions and also various other public residential or commercial property. He handles 27 workers as well as additionally assesses website strategies from a landscape design viewpoint.
It’s vague precisely the number of communities in Maine have arborists on personnel, yet Tarling claimed numerous bigger areas, consisting of South Rose city, Westbrook, Bangor and also Bathroom, additionally have actually committed arborists.
Tarling makes a wage of $86,405 and also the city anticipates to begin marketing for his substitute in the following couple of weeks. In the meantime, city authorities claimed Tuesday, his effort and also substantial expertise will certainly be sorely missed out on.
“Jeff is among one of the most committed workers I assume I’ve ever come into contact here with the city of Portland,” said Ethan Hipple, the city’s director of parks, recreation and facilities.
He said it’s common to find Tarling working early or late inspecting trees or picking up work after other employees have clocked out. He also does many things people don’t realize are part of his job, like overseeing the city’s winter sidewalk maintenance.
“He’s contributed in so many ways that are often unseen by the public, but it’s made a huge difference for the city of Portland,” Hipple said.
The City Council is expected to recognize Tarling and his years of service at its meeting Wednesday. In an email Tuesday, Mayor Kate Snyder said she has known Tarling since about 2006, when he was advising the then-Nathan Clifford School community on renovations to a playground and field behind the school.
“The city of Portland has been so fortunate to have Jeff Tarling, tree expert, as our arborist for so many years,” Snyder said. “Not only is he a content area expert, he is a historian for our city’s natural landscape and investments.”
Tarling, who grew up and lives in South Portland, loved trees and nature from a young age. He studied environmental science at the University of Southern Maine, then went to work for the city of South Portland as a golf course manager and park planner for eight years.
When he first came to work for the city of Portland, in Jan. 1989, Tarling was in awe of the natural landscape. He recalled driving through Deering Oaks thinking, “I have to take care of these trees and make sure we can pass them on.”
There have been major storms – such as the ice storm of 1998 – during which Tarling worked with forestry crews to respond and clean up damage, and challenges presented by pests like the hemlock woolly adelgid, browntail moth and emerald ash borer that have threatened some of the city’s most beloved trees.
And there are the daily difficulties of caring for trees in an urban environment, where road salt, vandalism, soil compaction and other parts of city life threaten longevity. The city typically plants 150 to 200 new trees each year to make up for those lost to storm damage, insects and other causes, and Tarling oversees the planning and planting.
In 2007, using grant funding, his staff started an inventory of all of the nearly 20,000 trees in public parks and on right-of-ways to improve knowledge of the city’s resources and how to better manage them.
He also worked with Oakhurst Dairy and the Rotary Club of Portland to establish a trust to fund tree plantings and helped the city establish a network of community gardens, orchards and urban meadows.
In Deering Oaks, Tarling transformed the Rose Circle from a high-maintenance rose garden treated with pesticides and fertilizers to one that’s more environmentally-friendly and sustainable, said Anne Pringle, a former city councilor and mayor and president of the Friends of Deering Oaks, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving and protecting the park.
“In a nutshell, he’s been a tremendous resource because of the knowledge he’s built up, and he’s very willing to share it,” Pringle said.
One of the most rewarding parts of the job is public education, especially when it involves children and schools, which Tarling has visited many times over the years. “You meet these kids and it’s really neat to advocate and prepare them to take over our role, even at an early age, and stimulate that interest in the environment,” he said.
In retirement, Tarling plans to pursue some of his favorite outdoor hobbies including skiing, biking and sailing. And he’ll likely be spending more time enjoying the view of Casco Bay from under the shade of his favorite tree – a majestic 150-year-old sugar maple on the Fort Allen Park end of the Eastern Prom.
Tarling came to love the tree and its brilliant fall colors years ago, though he eventually became worried that its health might be in decline. So when the Rotary Club offered to give him a tree to plant anywhere around the city, he chose a second, smaller sugar maple to plant a short distance away.
Tarling said a concerned resident on Munjoy Hill then called him to complain that someone had planted a small tree next to their favorite tree. He laughed as he recalled the complaint this week and how it serves as a reminder of how much Portland residents love and want to protect their trees.
“I think about that sometimes,” Tarling said. “It’s more than just Jeff taking care of the trees. It’s a community. The fact someone else liked that same tree is kind of funny. I think we all have a favorite tree somewhere.”