Kamas man knows his trees
Trees are "awesome, living organisms that provide a myriad of benefits to people," according to Jason Barto.
And as founder of the nonprofit organization Wasatch Back Trees, he should know.
Barto, 48, grew up in the "forested regions of Pennsylvania" and instantly formed an affinity for arboriculture, something he has maintained as an adult while living in the Kamas Valley.
"I realize that a lot of the common knowledge out there is somewhat dated so I want to make sure we learn a lot of things about planting trees properly," Barto said.
"It all started as a snowball on the top of the hill and it has just gotten bigger and bigger since then," Barto said.
Through his organization and with the help of volunteers, Barto has planted 2,000 seedlings, distributed 800 seedlings to fourth-and-fifth grade students, potted 800 seedlings for future planting and maintained 150 apple trees.
The Utah chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture recently recognized Barto for his work as community forester and named him ‘Arborist of the Year’ for 2015.
"I don’t want to say it is the culmination of my work because it’s not done yet, but it was nice to be recognized and it’s very humbling," Barto said.
Barto has taken the helm on the restoration of the apple orchards in Wasatch Mountain State Park with the help of middle school students, he has advised the Wasatch High School Envirothon team, worked with Utah State University landscape architecture students to design and develop master plans for two parks in the Kamas Valley, according to a press release. He also chairs the Community Forestry Council.
"It is an affirming recognition that our efforts are making a difference," Barto said.
Barto started organizing community tree plantings with the Kamas Valley Lion’s Club in 2007 and a few years later he became a certified arborist.
"While I was in college I sat on a committee that was responsible for overseeing trees on our campus and that got me a few steps further into it," Barto said. "But it wasn’t until we were looking for community service projects for the Lions Club that I realized I enjoyed this."
Barto said he plans to continue educating people about the benefits of trees, while further growing Wasatch Back Trees outreach within the community by doubling the number of trees that are planted.
"Our mission statement is it is a nonprofit organization working to develop community-based tree and forest stewardship, partnerships and a formidable outreach There are a lot of partnerships involved and we have built a lot of relationships to do the work we have done in Summit and Wasatch counties," Barto said.
"And it pretty awesome that even though I received the award, it is reflected as the culmination of all the different activities throughout the year and I think it is signatory that the work we are doing is going in the correct direction."
Wasatch Back Trees will soon begin its annual educational period, which includes a partnership with Recycle Utah’s water festival to educate four graders about seedlings and caring for a tree. The organization has also scheduled planting projects for the Summit County Health Department, Francis City Park, Marion Park and the Oakley Cemetery.
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The Summit County Council is poised to extend its order allowing school mask requirements at a meeting Monday. No school is close to the case-number threshold, according to state data.