Those stately old Erb Park trees have witnessed a lot in their hundreds of years — the design and construction of three swiming pools, the 1970s Dutch Elm plague, the historic wind shear storm of 2011 and more teen-aged mischief than they’ll ever report.
This past weekend, they watched and participated in the Wisconsin Arborist Association Tree Climbing Championship, another rollicking example of reciprocal respect and admiration as each chosen tree supported and protected the participants, and each of the 30 competitors made his or her way through those branches with skill and care for the branches, roots and trunk.
The trees and the city they enhance earned the right to host this events based on several criteria, according to WAA Chapter Executive Theresa Williams.
“The trees are large enough to make the climbing a challenge,” she said. “There are enough trees to spread out the events and keep a good flow. The City of Appleton is also great to work with for events. The forestry department has many members in our organization. Overall we are tree nerds and we love big trees. Erb Park has some beautiful ones.”
The championship involved five separate competitions, each designed to mimic the work of the arborists who competed. Throughout the two-day event, agile tree climbers competed in categories of ascent, speed climb, throw line, aerial rescue and work climb.
The particularly fascinating aspect of this competition is that the athetes scrambling up and down those trees are the same people whose lifework is protecting and growing them.
I enjoyed watching all five categories, but my favorite was the aerial rescue in which climbers had to assess an injured dummy hanging high up in the limbs, then make their way up the tree to rescue the patient, while updating EMTs and keeping the victim calm.
Tom Schumacher won the men’s division and Johanna O’Boyle won the women’s. Both competitors qualified for the International Tree Climbing Championship (though this year’s competition may be postponed due to Covid concerns).
I thought about jumping in (ha ha), but then I saw how fast this competitor scrambled up that giant tree…
…and I realized I am a much better tree shade, rather than tree top, seeker.
If they host a competition for that, I’m all in.
Meanwhile, congratulations to all the participants in the WAA Tree Climbing Championship and thanks for a really entertaining show.