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At arborist career day, students get high on trees

Many local students who also love trees and the forest and the pleasures of spending time outdoors might not realize that they could build these predilections into solid and satisfying work when they finish school.

Sheffield — Who thinks about climbing trees with two feet of snow on the ground and the temperature hovering near the minuses? The answer is — the people at Race Mountain Tree Services on Berkshire School Road. And, on Monday (February 23) so did students from Monument Mountain Regional High School of Great Barrington and from Wamogo Regional High School of Litchfield, Conn.

Ron Yaples conducts a discussion about his career as an arborist. Photo: Max Redman
Ron Yaple conducts a discussion about his career as an arborist. Photo: Max Redman

For Ron and Victoria Yaple, arborists and owners of Race Mountain, trees are their business and their passion. They recognized that many local students who also love trees and the forest and the pleasures of spending time outdoors might not realize that they could build these predilections into solid and satisfying work when they finish school. And so was born Race Mountain’s first annual student career day.

The Yaples opened their shop doors to local schools, and 26 students from Wamogo and Monument Mountain took advantage of the opportunity to learn what a tree company does. The day began with indoor introductions and talks, and continued with outdoor demonstrations, including lunch courtesy of Kathy Conway of the College of Natural Sciences at UMass Amherst, and concluded with a demonstration of how tree crews rig themselves to work high up in the tree branches.

Here’s some of what the students learned: How to climb trees safely; how to manage insects and other pests that threaten the life and health of trees; the proper way to cut down a tree; and what to look for when you walk through a forest. Members of the Race Mountain staff — Ron Yaple, Kieran Yaple, Chris Wheeler, Doug Vickery and Marco Benitez — served as instructors.

And representatives from other related programs – Dr. Brian Kane from the UMass Arboriculture Program, Will Conklin from the Greenagers youth work training program, and Max Redman for the Johnson State College Outdoor Adventure Program – introduced their programs, answered questions about various opportunities in and out of high school, and assisted with the demonstrations.

Kieran Yaples explains the tools used in the arborist profession.
Kieran Yaple explains the tools used in the arborist profession.

Contests gave students the chance to win Race Mountain arborwear clothing. And the big prize of the day – an all-expenses-paid trip to the annual UMass Tree Conference on March 10 – went to Christina Timmons of Wamogo Regional.

Though the day was cold, the sun shone brightly and students managed to stay warm. Monument Mountain horticulture teacher Bill Florek and Wamogo natural resources teacher Chris Brittain expressed pleasure with the level of instruction and the variety of techniques taught, and with the opportunity for their students to apply school learning to a real world setting.

As for Ron and Veronica Yaple, they are already planning the next Career Day and thinking about ways to make it even better.

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