Save the Rain is Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney’s comprehensive program to improve the environment and clean Onondaga Lake by reducing the stormwater runoff that enters the sewer system. There is a combined sewer system in Syracuse, and during heavy rainfalls the system overflows into the tributaries of Onondaga Lake. Save the Rain utilizes innovative green and gray infrastructure to capture stormwater, preventing combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and improving water quality. The Save the Rain Tree Planting Program has planted over 6,300 trees that, among other ecological services, can soak up stormwater runoff.
CCE Nassau County Horticulture and Urban and Community Forestry Resource Educator Vinnie Drzewucki (pronounced “Shavootski”) has served on the Council Board for two years.
Can you tell us about your childhood influences that foreshadowed getting interested in horticulture and urban forestry?
Vinnie Drzewucki: From a young age I was fascinated by plants. I think it was being around my father and grandmother who were always growing something and caring for their gardens and houseplants. My earliest memories are filled with being with them in their gardens and surrounded by flowers, fruits, vegetables, trees, and shrubs.
In school we learned that trees grow from seeds and so I began to collect and sow tree seeds everywhere. Some, to my surprise, did grow and I wonder if they are around today producing seeds of their own. When I was old enough to get my first library card, one of the first books I checked out was a book about trees because I wanted to know all I could about how trees grow. I was amazed that trees could provide a vast assortment of useful products like fruits and nuts to eat and wood for building and making things.
Back then, news about air and water pollution and deforestation was frequently in the media and often discussed in class. It was the time when the US Environmental Protection Agency and New York State Department of Environment Conservation were being formed, the Clean Water Act was amended, and the Clean Air Act was established. I suppose my interest in trees and their importance in the environment began way back then.
This is the first in a series of real-time reporting by NYSUFC Board Member Lori Brockelbank, who serves on the planning committee for this new Western NY CommuniTREE Stewards program.
Snow days from school in early October in Western New York—not a chance! But that is exactly what happened on October 12, 2006 to the City of Buffalo and surrounding communities. With leaves still on many trees, the heavy wet snow left Western NY with a challenge unlike any in the past. Thousands of trees were damaged; some needed pruning while many needed removal.
To coordinate replanting efforts after the storm, Re-Tree WNY (Re-Tree) was formed to help replace the vast canopy that was lost. Over the last ten years, the thousands of trees lost in the October 2006 storm have been replaced by Re-Tree’s volunteers, the City of Buffalo, and the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy.
In 2016, community partners have come together to take a natural next step in the care of these young trees by organizing a CommuniTREE Stewards (CTS) program. The intent of CTS is to train project volunteers to nurture the trees planted since 2006 and also be part of future plantings. CTS is a program of Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Erie County, with partners that include the City of Buffalo, Re-Tree, the Buffalo Green Fund, and Wendel Companies. We looked to similar programs, specifically Onondaga County CCE CommuniTREE Stewards, for guidance on how to organize the training for a similar program in Erie County.