The Importance of Trees with The Outdoor Circle

Myles Ritchie discusses The Outdoor Circle's Hawaii tree mapping efforts and the benefits of planting trees.

Austin Hattox:
Today we're going to be speaking with Myles Ritchie, programs director of The Outdoor Circle. Myles, welcome to the show.

Myles Ritchie:
Thanks for having me.

Austin Hattox:
For those in our audience who aren't already familiar, could you talk a little about The Outdoor Circle and what it is you guys do?

Myles Ritchie:
Sure. So The Outdoor Circle is Hawaii's oldest environmental non-profit. We began in 1912, so we've had 108 years working statewide, to kind of fulfill two main goals that we had since the beginning. The first is interestingly enough, the two work together, is anti billboards. So Hawaii used to have billboards and if anybody's been here and they look at iconic Diamond Head, which you can see from Waikiki, the extinct volcano. There used to be billboards up there and all throughout the state. So what happened was back in 1912, a group of really passionate women came together and decided, this is visual blight and we want to try and change that.

Myles Ritchie:
So they started boycotting businesses to take down their signs, their billboards and said, "There's better ways to go about doing this." They began working on state laws to actually remove billboards and the claim to fame for the beginning of the organization. How it goes is that there was one business remaining that refused to take their billboards down. So they ended up pooling their money together, buying the business and shutting it down and that was the last instance of billboards statewide. So that whole process did take decades to fully be seen, but that's kind of how it began and going with trying to protect view plains and the beauty of the islands, is trees. So The Outdoor Circle has been responsible for planting hundreds of thousands of trees in the last 100 years statewide.

Myles Ritchie:
It's important to note that we are a state only organization. So we aren't outside of Hawaii. We like that because it keeps us grounded in our roots and in touch with the local communities. And through that time, we've never veered from just keeping everything as our slogan goes, clean green and beautiful. So that's keeping everything looking great without billboards, planting lots of trees, preserving the trees that are still here and just keeping Hawaii a nice green, vibrant place to live.

Austin Hattox:
And as someone who didn't consider themselves a beach person, prior to visiting Hawaii, I'm a big supporter of your mission. I was talking to my wife yesterday and I told her that you guys had done the anti billboard thing and she was like, "Oh, whoa, no way." Like she had read about that before we visited Hawaii.

Myles Ritchie:
We'll see, that's the thing, right? Most people, one, they don't until you mention there's no billboards, "Oh, there's no billboards." I didn't realize that until I started interning here years ago and then obviously I picked it up and I was like, "Wow, you know you're actually right." So that's kind of a thing that we are known for, but it's kind of with the older generation, the younger generations, it's just always been that way. So they don't really know the history behind it, but yeah, when you tell people about it, they're like, "Wow, that's actually right. That's pretty impressive."

Austin Hattox:
Yeah. And I think I went through the same thing where I didn't even realize it when I was in Hawaii, but then when my wife said it after our vacation, I was like, "You know what, you're right. There is no billboards." And it was kind of a nice background thing of not something I picked up on, but I think it provided a more natural, nicer, less corporate experience.

Myles Ritchie:
Well, that's what you want, right? Granted, there's still the corporate influence here, right? With the tourism and all the big hotels and stuff in Waikiki. But if we do try and make sure there's plenty of trees down there, try and give it a more realistic feel. But once you get outside of Waikiki and the other tourist areas and you go hiking in the mountains and things like that, or even to some communities that just have really great street tree avenues, it's pretty impressive. And it's the uphill battle, there's always that dynamic and tension between development, which does have to occur in an adequate and correct manner, but trees are always in conflict with it, right? You want to put up a new building, but there's a row of trees there. There's going to be battling between that.

Myles Ritchie:
So we try and, I guess, speak for the trees and preserve what we can as much as often as we can and then replant to offset and increase. Because that's the one thing too, we don't just want a city of young trees. You want to sell the mature canopy, because it's been proven in plenty of scientific documents and literature that mature trees, one, they take forever to get there. They can take decades or centuries to get to the size of the currently at. But the benefits that they produce are far superior. You can have a hundred smaller trees with their benefits equal one larger tree. So it's not just, "Okay, we have to take down this mature tree and we'll replant it with one." We always try and push for a far greater quantity to try and help with that offset.

Austin Hattox:
Let's explore that a little bit. What are some of the major programs you guys put on in order to accomplish your mission?

Myles Ritchie:
Right. So we've a wide range of programs, as you can imagine. In over a 100 year period, we've done everything and still continue to do environmental education programs for students from elementary through to university. In addition to working with the community, who's interested, lots of presentations. But we do tree plantings and tree giveaways and everything from trying to highlight our exceptional trees. Which we can get into in a second, because that's a whole section in itself, most likely. But we just work with the community with other non-profits, with government agencies, to try and pool our resources, knowledge, and expertise, and just get trees in the ground and preserve those that are still there. But in terms of The Outdoor Circle itself, it's really important to note that we have a really small staff, there's only three of us and collectively it at amounts to about two full-time people.

Myles Ritchie:
So we rely heavily on our members statewide and they're passionate and really devoted to the cause and they have a lot of expertise. A lot of them are master gardeners or they've been landscape architects, or they're just tree lovers who have been around different native plants for decades. So we rely on them to do a lot of these programs in addition to our partners with other entities. So I guess a few things going beyond that, before jumping back to maybe the Exceptional Tree Program or Google Trekker or whatnot, is a couple of programs we have lined up. They're still in the early stages and we're confident that they'll be coming to fruition, but essentially the first one is a potential fruit course over on the Big Island.

Myles Ritchie:
So a big issue and we're starting to see this now, especially with COVID-19, is there's a realistic threat of food insecurity. And whether that's just not producing enough locally for times of natural disasters or we rely on all food to come in on tankers, just huge BARD hardships. If those stop for whatever reason, we're in trouble here. So just being able to increase food security through the acts like fruit forest and just planting more local or having more local farms. To have fresher produce that are healthier generally, because they don't have as long as travel from point A to point B, and it supports the local economy. So this fruit forest, ideally, it's going to be in the Hilo area of the Big Island. And we're looking at planting over time, about 10 acres of land, various fruit trees, nut trees, native plants, kukui nuts is a really important one here.

Myles Ritchie:
So we're looking at doing that and then maybe once a month having the public come and just have maybe like a fruit picking day. And that way we can help promote food security, but at the same time, it also acts as a good seed source. So when we do these tree giveaways, which we give the plants away for free, a lot more of those varieties can actually produce food. So maybe 'ulu, so breadfruit is a popular one, citrus has always been good. There's just a whole wide variety, mangoes, everything like that. So that's one project we're looking at doing, hopefully kicking it off later this year or sometime in 2021.

Myles Ritchie:
And another one we're looking at doing is a women's correctional facility, which is on the windward side of Oahu, we're building off our program that we currently have there, our Lani-Kailua branch, where they have something called a Learning to Grow Program. And what they do is, they teach the inmates essentially how to grow [hydroponic plus 00:08:47] and then they do that. And then it gets sold to the local grocery stores to support the program and keep it funded. And how we're building off that, is we're essentially putting in a nursery now and we're going to teach these women inmates how to propagate plants. And then those trees will then be useful for, once again, the tree giveaways and planting events. So it's this whole process, but at the same time, when they served their time and they're getting released, they have an additional skill set that they can use to go out into the job market and get in the landscape field, should they choose to do so. So it's kind of an interesting thing. So you can see that we have these wide, diverse programs, but at the end of the day, it still comes back to the roots of just keeping Hawaii clean, green and beautiful.

Austin Hattox:
I bet that focus on the community helps propagate you guys' mission even further, by powering people, educating people and getting them more involved in the process. So that they too can give back to the natural diversity of Hawaii.

Myles Ritchie:
Right and that's it. A lot of people will look at plants and we wish everyone was a tree lover and at the end of the day, unfortunately that's not the case, but there's proven benefits for trees that can appeal to almost everyone, right? You have economic benefits in terms of property value increases or when it comes to the exceptional trees, which we'll get to. Incentives for having these trees on your property, tax deductions, but it goes beyond that. There's health benefits, both psychological and physiological and the aesthetics and just the carbon sequestration, so the ecosystem service benefits. It's just so diverse and we just really want people to learn about these benefits, so that they can hopefully, instead of saying, "Yeah, that's a great looking tree." It's like, "It also does this much more, so maybe we can support it through planting events or planting another on property or some other method."

Austin Hattox:
You've already touched on this a few times, but let's talk a little bit about the Exceptional Tree Map. What was that program? What did you guys do and what did it lead to?

Myles Ritchie:
Right. So it's still ongoing, will always be ongoing. It's a dynamic map, so every year it gets updated. So essentially how it works is back in 1975, the state legislature with help from us and the [Milkihana 00:11:04] organization, passed a law stating that there are now a designation of exceptional trees and exceptional trees have to meet one or more of seven criteria. For example, age, size, historical cultural value, endemic status rarity, things like that. If the tree meets one or more of those, then it can be deemed exceptional. Now kind of how it works is even though it's a statewide law, with legal protections that prevents these trees from once they get listed as exceptional, they can not be removed, unless they are a threat to public safety.

Myles Ritchie:
So that's really important to know that and going forward, if I designate a monkeypod as exceptional on my property, and then you buy that property for me, that tree's still exceptionalized when you have it. So it's on the deed to the house, essentially. So if you wanted to put in a hot tub in the backyard, right where that tree is, you couldn't take it down. So that's one downside to the program and that's why I'll get to the incentives in a second. But that's something we've been working on, trying to get private property owners to get these trees on their property, because of the numerous benefits that they provide.

Myles Ritchie:
Now it's a statewide program with a statewide protection mandate, but each county, so there's four counties in Hawaii. So Big Island, Maui, Hawaii, and Oahu, our city and county of Honolulu, I should say. They each have their own mayor appointed arborist advisory committee. These four committees are responsible for their own county, in terms of nominations that come in. So they review them and then they determine if these trees are exceptional and then they'll put them on the list. And then they do periodic visits to make sure that they're still healthy. They still meet the criteria or the reasoning for their nomination and just for implementing the legal protections.

Myles Ritchie:
So this gets us to the interesting thing of tax deductions. So like I said, the program started in 1975, but because of the inability to remove these trees, once they've been listed as exceptional and because they potentially have high costs associated with them, especially larger ones. If you think of a large tree, right? If you're going to prune it, if you're going to have any kind of maintenance done on it, it could be thousands of dollars. So what happened was in 2003, the end of 2003, there was an addition to the state law that said that, "For every exceptional tree on private property that you have, $3,000 can be deducted from your state taxes every three years, as long as you can prove that you did some maintenance on the tree." So if I did $2,500 worth of pruning on my monkeypod, then I can submit that receipt and I get that as a tax deduction. You don't get the full 3000 unless you spend the full 3000, but it definitely helps for property owners who may love the tree, but maybe couldn't afford it.

Myles Ritchie:
So I'm about to do some research now into seeing how effective that actually has been, but anecdotally it's been really successful and a huge driver for a lot of private property nominations so far. And I guess, in spirit of the show being tech focused, we rely heavily on ArcGIS for the platform to actually make the map. So how it kind of began for me was six years ago, when I started as an intern, people didn't really know about the program anymore, it kind of faded away from memory. So we wanted to revitalize it and start educating the public, but the problem was, no one really knew where these trees were.

Myles Ritchie:
So they were in each county's registry, but each registry was not standardized with the other. So in terms of how they described the location of these trees or anything like that, sometimes it's really detailed. Like the Mauka side of Oahu Avenue is this one exceptional tree, really easy on a small lot. Whereas others would be, for example in Maui, it's a koa tree, past mile marker 11 on a really busy highway right next to the ocean. Okay, so that's a little harder. And then the best one so far was two kamani trees on Oahu, that were literally in a jungle. And how we had to go and find it was, there are two X's on a treasure map looking, style of image and we had to go find it and we did.

Myles Ritchie:
So they range so that the standardization wasn't there, so that's where I came in initially. My task was to go and locate these trees, get their GPS locations and while there, get other metrics. Such as height, diameter, crown spread health, things like that, that were then used to calculate the ecosystem services. So carbon sequestration, water runoff avoided, pollutants removed, property value increase, things like that and to this day, like I said, it's still ongoing. Every year there's trees removed, because they died over the past year or there are new ones added and that's kind of how the program goes. But the main point is that it's an effective method in preserving the most majestic trees that we have statewide from that threat I mentioned earlier, which is development. And they also generally receive better maintenance, so that can also help prolong their lifespan as well.

Austin Hattox:
That's so fascinating. So did you collect all the data yourself or was this a community effort or different members of your team or your partners get involved?

Myles Ritchie:
Yeah, predominantly it was just myself. When we went to the neighboring islands, I would generally have at least one intern with myself, to help get the data. Because frequently when you're trying to get crown spread for these huge trees, right, you get the tape measure out and you need someone else to hold the other end and things like that. But I was there for them all and with some interns, which is really helpful, big kudos to them, they're on our website for the shout out. But there's over 1100 of these trees statewide, so some of them are in groups. So groves as we call them, where you can have for example, maybe a hundred coconuts in one grove. But for the most part, it's going to all of these different locations statewide and getting these metrics.

Myles Ritchie:
So it's really fun, using ArcGIS has been great, because it's as you know, and some of the listeners probably do as well. Being able to take all of that data's, this huge Excel sheet of data and put it into a visual format where anybody can just click around, click on the icon, get all these things and really intuitive and user friendly format, has been super useful for us. And when we do presentations, it's like, "Oh, here's the map." And they're like, "Oh, okay. I know where that is." It's just so much easier, it's a cleaner and really useful way for the public to engage with the data that we collected. That would otherwise, probably be a little overwhelming when they see the data itself in its raw format.

Austin Hattox:
So is that Exceptional Tree Map available on your website?

Myles Ritchie:
Yeah, it is. If you just go to outdoorcircle.org, you'll see our programs and you can just check the map out. It's kind of a one stop shop as we've modified it over the years, because we have a tree library. So it's fun facts on all the different species of exceptional trees, which are over 50 throughout the state. We have images of all the trees, we've tied it with Google because we have the partnership with them, to essentially show the street view of each tree for the ones that are along streets. So there's a whole bunch of interesting data people can check out and I think a lot of people. Especially statewide here, either people visit or people live here, might be surprised to see that there's an exceptional tree not too far from them. And as long as it's on public property, they should go check it out and we do distinguish between private property and public property. So that's easy and people don't have to worry about trespassing issues, which they should definitely just stay on public property. Can't stress that enough.

Austin Hattox:
Very practical view. So what is this Google Maps integration? Is that where you tied the data that you collected in the Exceptional Tree Map with Google Maps or what does that look like?

Myles Ritchie:
Yeah, that's exactly it. So what we did was, when we were doing the post-processing. We went and we used either current Google Maps data and we got essentially the URL for that exact, the zoom in and the location for the trees. When you click on it, it'll take you right there, so we use that. But then for the trees that weren't near roads, this kind of ties into the Google Trekker program is, for the viewers, essentially I'll do a quick little recap on that. A couple of years ago, Google reached out to us because of this Exceptional Tree Map and they said, "Hey, you guys have been statewide, just some really remote places, really cool places, looking for these trees. We want to partner with you for our Trekker Program." Which is essentially Google Street View off-roading.

Myles Ritchie:
So you get this big 50 pound backpack that has 15 cameras on it to take a 360 panoramic image and it takes an image every two and a half seconds. And you just go and you start trekking, you go through the mountains. We went everywhere. We did Volcanoes National Park, we did various botanical gardens, we did beaches. Essentially, anywhere that was environmental, historical or cultural significance we went to. It's important to note that we did not go to any secret locations and all the locations we went to did have the permission from either the county or the state or the private property owner, where it was. So what we did was for the trees that didn't have close accessibility to the roads for street view. We then took this as part of the larger Trekker Program that we did and highlighted some of these exceptional trees that you would otherwise not normally see on Google. And then once again, we tied it in with the map through the various URL codes.

Austin Hattox:
So is it possible to do a Google Street View walkthrough of one of these trails that you guys covered?

Myles Ritchie:
Yeah, it is and that's actually on our website as well. So when you go to programs again, you'll see Google Trekker and you'll see the over 50 locations that we went to statewide. And so it'll have the name, it's got a direct link, a hyperlink right there, click on it and just start going around. So it's pretty awesome, some of the locations we went to, they're on all four of the larger islands and it's pretty cool.

Myles Ritchie:
And some interesting things that have occurred since this, the two year period, that we didn't anticipate originally, was kind of an educational slash research perspective. A lot of the trails we went on, this imagery now serves as baseline data for invasive species. So you can now go back and you have this timeline for two years already, saying like, "Okay, here's what was in the imagery plant wise and have invasives encroached in these more remote areas." Or various other things like that. It's also really useful for showing the beauty of the islands, which we love to do, to people who may otherwise not be able to do it. So maybe they can't physically go on these hikes or maybe they can't financially come out to Hawaii. They can still see these really incredible locations from the comfort of their own home. It's been a really cool project that and it's awesome that it kicked off from the work that we did on the Exceptional Tree Map.

Austin Hattox:
I love that point about allowing other people to experience these trails in a way or get more information and see what some of these trees and the natural beauty. I like that you guys didn't just gather this data and then you've kept it, something that you guys can use and you can utilize in other ways. But you also spread it out and allowed other people to also be able to experience and get a sense of, this is why this is important and this is why it's valuable.

Myles Ritchie:
Right. And it all ties back to what we're trying to do, right? We want to preserve and enhance the beauty of Hawaii and by showing what's currently there. This is an ideal location, we want to make things a little more like this with natural, with the trees, with the native plants and everything like that. So by highlighting some of these areas, it just furthers our mission of, okay, for the areas that may be a little more paved over currently, what can we do to accommodate...

Myles Ritchie:
As I mentioned, development needs to occur, but doing it in a way that is maybe a little more green focused, green infrastructure, kind of a thing. Where trees become a valued part of our society, rather than just something nice to look at. They do serve benefits, which we don't have time to go into today, but the quantifiable benefits of how many dollars are actually saved per $1 spent on a tree in an urban area, is pretty significant. It's about a three to one out here in Hawaii. So we just want to help change the narrative in terms of trees are good. Trees are good for all, regardless if you don't like the look of them, they can still help you in other ways.

Austin Hattox:
Zooming out a little bit, what is the largest obstacle that you would say is standing in the way of accomplishing you guys' mission?

Myles Ritchie:
I think everything's going really well right now, but in terms of looking ahead to the future, and this is a common problem I've been seeing with fellow non-profits. Is how to engage the next generation, right? We've been around for a 100 years and how do you use technology? Whether it's social media, whether it's the programs themselves, getting people out volunteering. But how can we engage them and get them interested in doing these various projects and learning about the organization and getting involved?

Myles Ritchie:
And maybe, I do think the younger generation is passionate, especially with having grown up with a lot of the green movement having already been in effect. But it's just what role and how can we utilize this in new technologies coming out? When predominantly our membership base is consistent older generations. So it's just kind of finding a way to bring the two together. This really well-established, passionate and educated, in terms of the trees of Hawaii and what we need to do to protect our environment and then bringing it with the energy that the new youth has. So we can really just increase the effectiveness in the scope of a lot of our programs. So it's definitely just appealing to the next generation.

Austin Hattox:
And on that note, how are you guys utilizing social media to try to connect with some of the younger generation?

Myles Ritchie:
Right. So this is that it goes back to it, it's been a little tricky, as I mentioned. So predominantly we use Instagram and Facebook, that's having pulled our members, that's predominantly what they use. So we did use Twitter for a little bit and some other platforms, but it was more hassle than it was worth, in terms of how many people were actually engaging with those platforms. So right now, what we're really doing is focusing on building up a really good set of programs that can be appealing. And then we can start reaching out on those social media platforms to try and engage, as I said, the different demographics, different generations. So then we can try and merge them all together and make an even greater stronger organization.

Myles Ritchie:
But for the most part, through Instagram, Facebook, our website, which has a ton of great data and information and just things like this. Doing podcasts, doing interviews, getting on the nightly news, things like that for various issues. We've been able to promote the organization pretty effectively, but that's pretty much it. It's just using social media in a way that can really benefit all. And like I said, this is something we're not just experiencing on our own, it's most non-profits are struggling with how to engage the next generation.

Austin Hattox:
Totally. Being able to walk that line and balance doing things in the real world versus the online participation social media model.

Myles Ritchie:
Right. And you don't want to alienate your core group that we've had for all these decades. So we need to walk that fine line of, still ensuring that our current members are fully engaged and we're doing what they want to see happen, but at the same time also bringing on this next group. So walking that fine line and making it happen is tricky, but it's totally doable.

Austin Hattox:
What role would you say that your website serves in accomplishing your mission?

Myles Ritchie:
It's a huge database in terms of all the programs we have done and currently do, call the act on. So that's another thing about the organization, I didn't really touch upon earlier, but essentially we've kind of two focuses, right? We want to do the programs and we are a watchdog, we've been a watchdog since we started, in terms of threats to trees. People come to us, for example, one big topic that's going on right now are a bunch of large shade trees, predominantly monkeypods that are being removed over at Omauda Park, which is a very popular park for people who don't know. Here for people, not in Hawaii, but here in Oahu, it's a very popular, the people's park and they're trying to take down 26 of these large shade trees. So what happens? People see this starting to happen, they come to us, we get involved, we work with our contacts to try and resolve the issue.

Myles Ritchie:
So we do the watchdog aspect and that goes up on our website and in combination with e-blasts and things like that, that's where we get the message out. But the website serves as a really good database in terms of just all things The Outdoor Circle. And people can be on it for hours checking it out and especially with the historical content, there's a ton on there. But something that would be great to modify it further, would be something I wanted to see for a long time. We often get calls from people who say they have a, I don't know, a couple decent size palm trees, for example, or any species for that matter. And they don't want to kill the tree, but they have to remove it for various reasons.

Myles Ritchie:
One thing I would love to do is create a section on the website. I don't know if it's going to be kind of a blog format or how it'll work, but essentially connecting people who want to save trees, but have to get rid of them off their property and people who want trees and don't necessarily have to go spend thousands of dollars on a larger specimen. So that could be a really cool addition to the website, still working on how to actually go about doing it. But for us, the website is the bread and butter of information dissemination to the public, to our members, to just anybody who's curious about The Outdoor Circle and what we've done all these years, and it's pretty important for us.

Austin Hattox:
So what's one tech tool or website that your organization has started using in the past year?

Myles Ritchie:
Honestly, we've really started ramping up Instagram presence. Like I said, having pulled our members earlier, Facebook was predominantly the one we focused on. But having talked to a few colleagues at other organizations in another sectors, they push the Instagram focus as one way to really start, I guess, engaging with the younger generation and that's what we did. So we started doing weekly exceptional tree posts. So if people want to search on Instagram, it's just The Outdoor Circle and they'll see, on top of all the other stuff we post, we started weekly exceptional tree posts. Which has some great images, fun facts about these trees and it's a different one of those 1100 each week. And since we've been doing that, we predominantly started it, I guess, three months ago, and it's just been getting increasingly more popular. We've had more follows on the Instagram page because of this. So we are starting to see that growth from Instagram. So I think that's probably an easy one to address, but I think we're finally starting to utilize it in the correct manner and reach the target audience that we desire.

Austin Hattox:
Are you battling with any tech issues right now?

Myles Ritchie:
The tech issue would be, I would love to be on all social media platforms, but I'm trying to figure out a way to capitalize on the functions in the usability of each of those. And how we can use it for our demographics who may otherwise not know about it, or it may not be kind of what they're used to. How to essentially help bring in new users to this different form of technology? And I guess another one, Slack that we sent you not too long ago, I should've mentioned that in the last question, but that's been great. We've loved using it, it's been awesome means, especially, we're a statewide organization. So we have members and branches on other islands, you're separated by water, right? So it's a great means of communication, sharing information, if you don't want to have these massive email threads going on.

Myles Ritchie:
So that's pretty much it, it's utilize social media, just capitalize on technology and then if you have good content, which we think we do, I know we do, but I'm biased in saying that. If you have the good programs, you're able to convey it to the public, here's what we're doing, the support should follow and we're definitely seeing that. So it's exciting to see how technology can be used to enhance an already well established and we're an old organization. So it's pretty cool how you can see tech infused in the new age, to keep the mission going that we've had for so long and just kind of give it a new spin.

Austin Hattox:
I love that. That perspective, I think is a really positive and forward looking. So where do you see The Outdoor Circle in five years?

Myles Ritchie:
Utilizing whatever's coming out there. We've been fortunate enough that we've had some great interns come on in the last few years. And in addition to their diverse set of knowledge, they are ensuring that we are up with the times in terms of tech and how we can start to utilize them. So we've started gearing programs towards those, so we can capitalize on that.

Myles Ritchie:
But The Outdoor Circle in five years, what is that, 113 years at that point? I envision that we're going to still have our really devoted core base that we've had for all these years. But I do think that we're going to expand what we've already started a few years ago, it's started on calling it our next generation branch. So it is its own branch and that's our 11th branch statewide, and its core focus is to get members who are interested, their hands a little more dirty. So getting trees in the ground, doing that hard volunteer activities, that's what it was set up to do, and it has been growing. But I feel that with tons of new students, especially coming out of university and things like that, they're looking for opportunities to either volunteer or internship or get jobs, and this can be that outlet for them. So I think the organization in five years will have an influx of youth and hopefully get that really good dynamic, that combination of past generations working with new generations, and just sharing the knowledge that they all have with one another and benefiting one another that way.

Austin Hattox:
And if you could go back in time to before you were involved with The Outdoor Circle, what would you tell yourself?

Myles Ritchie:
It's going to be an incredible ride that you will never be able to guess what's going to come next. It's been such a great opportunity, having come in, as I said, as an intern to work on the Exceptional Tree Map. And then six years later, here I am, program director coming up with some really cool ideas in collaboration with all of our partners and members and things like that. It's not just me, it's definitely not just me, but it's everyone working together. And it's just seeing this organization adopt technology, starting with the GIS aspect, which was a big jump at the time for the organization. Just seeing how successful that was and now having the confidence to start embracing a lot of other forms of technology. It's great, it's furthered our mission, we brought in some great new members and allies because of it. So if I could go back and tell myself, it's just, "Buckle up, it's going to be a fun ride, essentially."

Austin Hattox:
And you're going to get to see a lot of Hawaii in the next six years.

Myles Ritchie:
That's exactly, 100%.

Austin Hattox:
Any last minute thoughts you'd like to leave with our listeners?

Myles Ritchie:

Essentially, keep the research going. Coming from an academic background, technology's evolving so fast and it's almost hard to keep up with sometimes, but by talking with fellow colleagues and whether it's just reading newspapers or reading academic journals. Try to keep up with tech and how it's evolving, because with how fast it is, there's most likely a solution to your current problem. And if you don't have time to do that, look to the next generation, because they probably already know what that tech is. Just use tech to make your job easier, more efficient and have just more successful outcomes with whatever you're doing.

Austin Hattox:
Excellent. That's all the questions I've got for you Myles. Thanks so much for appearing on the show and sharing the impact you guys are having with The Outdoor Circle.

Myles Ritchie:
Of course. Thank you, I appreciate it.

Austin Hattox:
If our listeners would like to find out more about The Outdoor Circle, where would be the best place to connect with you guys online?

Myles Ritchie:
Sure. As I said before, just outdoorcircle.org. That's our best location, we have all our contact info there. We have all our programs, our historical info, everything you need will be there and if anybody's interested, reach out, we'd be happy to chat with you.

Austin Hattox:
Awesome. Thanks Myles.

Myles Ritchie:

No problem. Have a great one. Thank you.
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