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PlaceMaker: Introducing the Presidio’s New Forester

Friday, Feb 16, 2018 Category Park Management; Nature and Science

We’re delighted to announce that the Presidio has a new forester, ready to carry on the legacy of Peter Ehrlich, who along with his team cared for the park’s eucalyptus, cypress, and pine for 18 years.

Blake Troxel received his Master of Forestry degree from the Yale School of Forestry and holds professional certifications from the Society of American Foresters, the International Society of Arboriculture, and California Air Resources Board. He’s also a veteran of the Peace Corps and has managed forest projects and crews in rural, urban, and tropical landscapes. He joined the Presidio Trust team in fall 2017. We’re so lucky to have him on board and asked him to share a little bit more about his background.

How did you become interested in forestry?

I grew up in Indiana in a family of farmers and always enjoyed nature and being outside. I studied environmental science, and after graduate school, joined the Peace Corps. This allowed me to spend time on the South Pacific Island of Vanuatu where my perspective on natural resource management changed quite drastically.

Through this experience, I realized there was much more I wanted to learn. I decided to go back to school to study environmental management further and, while in school, I had an advisor who encouraged me to explore the forest sciences. After graduation, I apprenticed at a working forest some 10,000 acres in size, which allowed me to learn the skills and carry out all the necessary tasks of managing forestland. This was a great introduction into traditional forestry. From there, I worked for a nonprofit in New Haven, where I mentored youth in after school planting programs and worked with adults coming out of correction facilities to teach them how to plant and monitor street trees. These programs further fueled my interest in urban forestry.

Why were you interested in working at the Presidio?

The Presidio is unique – it’s a park where urban forestry and more traditional forestry meet. We have single trees along streetscapes and yards, small patches of trees within more traditional parkland settings, and our large historic forest, and all need to be managed in different ways. I thought it was the perfect opportunity to use my varied experience.

What are your goals for the forestry program in the Presidio?

I don’t see any one right or wrong way of practicing forestry. We must be open to all of the opportunities provided to us through cross-disciplinary research, innovation, and collaboration. My hope is that I’ll be able to bring a new perspective to the park. Every day I see new opportunities in the Presidio – for instance, working with community volunteers, our natural resources program, and the Presidio nursery to enhance the biodiversity of our forest stands. The opportunities for collaboration and forest research are nearly endless – and that’s a very exciting prospect for me.

Anything you think most people don’t know about the Presidio’s trees that they should know?

I think most people see forests as static and untouchable. But forests go through different stages of growth and decline like any other organism. There’s always an opportunity for change. The only thing holding us back right now is the idea that the way it’s been is how it always has to be. With a changing climate, we may need to increase our planting efforts, and we may need to explore more natural regeneration methods. The best thing for the Presidio’s forest is for us to be proactive with our restoration program and cultivate the type of urban forest that promotes biodiversity and creates an amazing experience for everyone that enjoys our park.

Do you have a favorite place to experience the Presidio’s trees, or any suggestions for the visitor?

Park Stand (along Park Boulevard) is my very favorite place to experience the Presidio’s trees. At the moment, you can walk over there and see fog rolling through the trees - it’s an iconic, yet declining, stand of Monterey cypress in stark contrast to the healthy and vibrant, young forest that will one day become iconic itself. This is a place where I see what the forest once was, and where I can envision what it can become.