AUBURN, Ala. — Alabama Cooperative Extension System professionals are dedicated to their work, whether in or out of the office. One Alabama Extension agent is taking dedication and awareness to another level with a six-day, 610-mile bike ride. Beau Brodbeck, a regional forestry, wildlife and natural resources agent based in Baldwin County, has been gearing up for the trip with months of training.
Brodbeck has not been a hard-core cyclist his whole life, but has cycled periodically throughout his adult life. He first heard about the STIHL Tour de Trees several years ago and set a goal to participate in the 2016 tour. His interest in the Tour de Trees piqued after becoming the Tree Fund liaison to the Southern Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture. After completing his doctorate degree at Auburn University in May 2016, Brodbeck knew it was time to begin working toward his goal.
“As a certified arborist, I have a vested interest in the continued support of the TREE Fund for applied research and education programs,” said Brodbeck, who has been involved with arboriculture and urban forestry for 13 years.
Training for the Tour de Trees
Brodbeck knew training for a weeklong event would take time and effort. On weekdays, Brodbeck was riding by 5:45 a.m.—to take advantage of cooler temperatures and less traffic.
“During May and June, my goal was to ride 100 miles per week,” he said. “In July, I was riding 150-200 miles per week. I rode for about an hour and a half on weekday mornings and had longer, earlier rides on weekends.”
Brodbeck said work and family obligations limited his training time so he adjusted his plan to include shorter, high-tempo rides.
“These 25-30 mile weekday rides are often extremely fast with riding paces sometimes over 21 mph or more,” he said. “My hope is to offset mileage with effort, as I will be riding easier but longer during the tour.”
TREE Fund Tour de Trees
The TREE Fund’s signature fund and outreach event, the Tour de Trees, will take place in North and South Carolina Oct. 9-15.
The annual tour, begun in 1992, is one of the world’s largest fundraisers for tree research and education. Participants commit to raising at least $3,500 for the TREE Fund, in addition to pedaling the daunting 610 miles.
Community engagement events and tree plantings are outreach and “friendraising.” Participants provide educational opportunities for youth in the area. Tour de Trees riders also plant additions to the urban forests to raise awareness and make new friends of the urban forest.
In 2015, the fundraiser generated over $340,000, used to support research projects and educational programs of tree care professionals.
Money raised has funded research on improving urban tree health and programs to connect young people with the environment and the green industry.
Brodbeck said aside from the thrill of a challenging ride, he believes strongly in the TREE Fund’s mission and work.
“The presence of urban forests in communities is invaluable,” he said. “Often times the community doesn’t recognize the ecological and economical benefits of urban forests. Thriving businesses are often associated with well-established trees.”
He said while planting new trees is a trendy—and environmentally responsible—thing to do, maintenance of existing trees is a struggle that needs to be addressed.
“We still have so much to learn about growing and caring for trees in urban environments,” Brodbeck said. “The Tree Fund is one of the only grant programs directly targeting these issues.”
The TREE Fund has another component that draws Brodbeck to support its outreach.
“The TREE Fund supports research and education, something many Extension professionals do on a regular basis,” he said.