NYC’s Matt Stephens Goes to Washington DC for Arborist Exchange

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NYC Parks and Casey Tree staff intermingling ♦ Photo Courtesy Casey Trees

Last fall, both NYC Parks and the not-for-profit, DC-based organization Casey Trees successfully applied for an arborist exchange through the Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA). This resulted in the first public/private pairing for the program (previously, all participants were from municipalities).

The goal of the exchange is simple: to enable urban foresters to share expertise, management practices, and technology through an on-site and immersive experience. To that end, Director of Tree Planting for NYC Parks and Recreation Matt Stephens was welcomed for a few days into the Casey Trees family. Matt wrote this report originally for City Trees, the magazine of the SMA.   

During my exchange I visited the Casey Trees Farm, participated in tree planting events, and met with staff to discuss the day-to-day management and the long-term vision of the organization. I was also able to witness firsthand Casey’s innovative tree-growing practices at their farm as well as past tree plantings completed throughout Washington DC.

With everyone I talked to, rode along with, or learned from, I noticed one commonality: passion. Passion to inspire the young, to maximize tree survival, to increase canopy—but perhaps most importantly, true passion for the people and trees of Washington DC. This city is lucky to have Casey Trees, and I can attest that Casey Trees is an expert and trustworthy steward for the urban forest.

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Buffalo’s Cost-Share Grant Story and Advice

Measuring Diameter at Breast Height (DBH) during the in-house, grant-funded inventory.
Measuring Diameter at Breast Height (DBH) during the in-house, grant-funded inventory.

In 2011, the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy (BOPC) successfully applied for a Round 10 Urban and Community Forestry Cost-Share Grant from NYS DEC.

Among other things, the funds went toward updates to the City of Buffalo’s tree inventory, condition assessment of the existing BOPC Tree Inventory and Management Plan, and priority maintenance to trees within the Buffalo Olmsted Park System.

The original tree inventory for Buffalo was performed in 2005 and updated in 2008, but by 2011, there was a need to include the 2,100 trees planted in the prior two years and a need to update the conditions report for the 11,500 trees in the database.

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A New Method for Streamlining Tree Selection in New York City

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Read on for the full story behind this biotopes flow chart (and a bigger version of the chart).

We can count on our NYC urban forestry colleagues to be constantly innovating. This article by NYC Urban Forester and NYSUFC Executive Committee Member David Moore first appeared in City Trees, the magazine of the Society of Municipal Arborists. It generated a lot of positive feedback.

In the article, he shares how the New York City Parks Department streamlined its system for making tree species selections for 25,000 street tree plantings a year. Moore says, “We hope that our system provides useful insights that can be adapted and customized to the needs of other cities undertaking street tree planting.” A municipality of any size can use this article to think strategically about their tree selection process. 

Background
The MillionTreesNYC initiative was catalyzed by research that shows on average, New York City street trees currently return $5.60 to the community for every $1 spent on management.1 In the course of fulfilling the mission of MillionTreesNYC, NYC Parks Department foresters are tasked with designing planting spaces and selecting tree species for each site, then overseeing construction and community engagement.

Two factors that affect plant selection in NYC: to guarantee biodiversity, we use over 250 different tree species, cultivars, and selections grown under contract by tree nurseries in the region. Second, the planting sites that we survey have varying environmental constraints.

Selection can be a simple task on a tree-by-tree basis, but this is not efficient when it comes to making thousands of selections per season. We needed a decision making protocol to ensure consistency and accuracy throughout the urban forestry program, while considering the reality of our foresters’ time constraints. We also wanted to optimize the net benefits of our tree plantings by systematically maximizing each planting site’s potential.

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Buffalo’s New Cherry Blossom Festival

Kwanzan cherry blossom
Kwanzan cherry blossoms

BUFFALO’S NEW CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL

Last May (2014), in collaboration with the Buffalo History Museum and the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, volunteers organized the First Annual Buffalo Cherry Blossom Festival, a celebration of cherry blossoms, music, activities, and Japanese culture.

Most activities took place in the Japanese Garden behind the Buffalo History Museum, in the museum, or in Delaware Park. Activities included a tea ceremony, cherry blossom ball, music, films, poetry, food and sake tastings, picnics in the Garden, a tree planting, and a free family day including boat rides on Hoyt Lake. There were even pink lights illuminating the museum at night. 

The second festival is scheduled for May 2-9, 2015. Organizers have launched an Indiegogo campaign to help fund the next event, including 100 urban cherry tree plantings. The Olmsted Conservancy gardeners will present tree planting and care events. There will also be cherry trees for sale for homeowners and corporations*. A video about the event can be seen here.

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Buffalo Cherry Blossom Festival logo by Michael Morgulis

Festival organizer Trudy Stern says, “Buffalo deserves a celebration after snow melt time. Buffalo has been famous for blizzards. We are creating a variation on our blizzardy notoriety by planting a vast number of cherry trees that will eventually create breathtaking beauty with their ‘blizzards’ of petals.”

The Buffalo Cherry Blossom Festival follows Washington DC’s National Festival and is hoping to attract visitors who will be on their way to Niagara Falls. Those who enjoy the natural beauty of Niagara are bound to also enjoy Buffalo’s beautiful Japanese Garden within the Fredrick Law Olmsted parks system, the first of Olmsted’s renowned plans. 

*More tree planting info: this spring, Kwanzan and Yoshino cherry trees will be offered. For a donation of $500 people can have a tree planted on their own property by a landscaping professional. A share of a tree can be donated to the Japanese Garden of Buffalo and the Olmsted Conservancy (100.00 suggested). Conservancy staff will plant them in Delaware Park around the Japanese Garden. On Sunday May 3 the Cherry Blossom Festival and Conservancy staff will offer a tree planting and maintenance demonstration event in the Japanese garden. For more information, please write buffaloblossoms@gmail.com. Lastly, the WNY Nursery and Landscape Association has given a gift of a beautiful Japanese Maple to the Japanese Garden of Buffalo that will planted in March – thank you to them.

planting cherry tree

Ed Dore and a Glimpse into Upstate’s Community Tree Planting Movement

This is an article, adapted for TAKING ROOT, that I originally wrote for Upstate Gardeners’ Journal in 2013. It’s about the amazing metro-Buffalo-based community tree advocate Ed Dore and how a portion of the upstate community tree planting movement has evolved in the last 15 years. –Michelle Sutton, TR Editor

Ed Dore and a Glimpse into Upstate’s Community Tree Planting Movement

Ed Dore
Ed Dore

When you read here about ambitious and successful volunteer tree planting collaborations in upstate New York, Ed Dore wants you to say not, “Isn’t that great they do that?” but rather, “Hey, let’s do that here!”

Dore owns Dore Landscape Associates in Pendleton, founded in 1982, about half an hour east of Buffalo and one mile east of the Erie Canal. Though he eschews recognition, Ed Dore is highly regarded for his talent in helping volunteer communities of all kinds partner with one another to plant trees in public spaces.

He and his industry colleagues have been involved in community tree planting efforts in earnest since 1999, but Dore tracks the movement back to 1974 when the Western NY State Nursery and Landscape Association (WNYSNLA) planted its first Arbor Day tree. The inaugural tree was planted on Goat Island in the Niagara River, near Niagara Falls.

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Essential and Updated: The Cornell Woody Plants Database

Like me, you may have a dog-eared, well-worn copy of the Urban Horticulture Institute’s (UHI) Recommended Urban Trees: Site Assessment and Tree Selection for Stress Tolerance. Another fantastic resource for urban foresters and UF volunteers that has just been updated is the Cornell Woody Plants Database.

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Nina Bassuk says, “What makes the site unique is its focus on matching woody plants to site conditions, a feature sometimes lacking on other plant selection sites and a consideration that is sometimes lost in the design and plant selection process.” With its extensive image collection and cultural information, the site is also very useful for woody plant ID and study.

Each entry includes ultimate size and shape, USDA Hardiness Zone, light requirement, salt tolerance, moisture tolerance range, insect and disease considerations, and key ornamental features. Impressively, each entry has Nina voicing a short audio lesson that reinforces ornamental and ID features. Nina says this is a work in progress, as she is re-recording some of the entries for better audio quality.

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There is a Course Plant Walk section, which you can use to find a series of plant walks through the beautiful Cornell campus based on different criteria like species (e.g., oaks, maples, and rosaceous and flowering trees) or tolerances (e.g., dry site and wet site trees); click on Maps to see the walk route.

The database was originally the outgrowth of the year-long joint Horticulture/Landscape Architecture (LA) course, “Creating the Urban Eden,” taught by UHI Director Nina Bassuk and Dept of LA Chair Peter Trowbridge.

The site had modest beginnings as an “online textbook” circa 2000. The first version consisted of a FileMaker Pro database running on the Cornell network from a Mac under a desk in the main offices of the Department of Landscape Architecture. Since then, the site has grown significantly more sophisticated with three major revisions that added additional features and functionality. The most recent upgrade was supported by a SUNY Innovative Instruction Technology Grant in 2013.

Check out the Cornell Woody Plants Database!

A young 'Canada Red' Prunus virginiana
A young ‘Canada Red’ Prunus virginiana

NYS DEC Cost Share Grants & The Fayetteville Example

Trees in Fayetteville's Beard Park were pruned as part of the Village's successful grant. Photo by Kristen Pechacek
Trees in Fayetteville’s Beard Park were pruned as part of the Village’s successful grant. Photo by Kristen Pechacek

About the NYS DEC Cost Share Grant Program

NYS DEC is committed to providing support and assistance to communities in comprehensive planning, management, and education to create healthy urban and community forests and to enhance the quality of life for urban residents through its Cost Share Grant program.

The availability of the next round of funds will be announced in late spring 2015, and the due date for applications provided at that time. At least $900,000 in grants will be available to municipalities, public benefit corporations, public authorities, school districts and not-for-profit organizations that have a public ownership interest in the property or are acting on behalf of a public property owner.

Communities may request from $2,500 to $50,000, depending on municipal population. Funds are made available from the Environmental Protection Fund and will be managed and allocated by DEC.

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To Fire You Up About Collaboration: The 3M Urban Wetlands Restoration Project in Columbia, MO

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The 3M Flat Branch-Hinkson Creek Wetlands on reclaimed/restored land in the city of Columbia, Missouri. Foreground: buttonbush and cattails; background: mixed bottomland hardwood species. Photo by Brett O’Brien

“Collaboration” and “Partnership” can be empty buzz words or they can be impressive manifestations of passion, hard work, and HEAPS of patience. In his article, “Collaborative Effort in Columbia, MO Spearheads the Renewal of a Former Sewage Plant Site into Wetlands Habitat,” Columbia Park Natural Resources Supervisor Brett O’Brien tells an exceptional tale of collaboration, with abundant pics. The article starts on page 28 of the Sept/Oct 2014 edition of City TREES, the magazine of the Society of Municipal Arborists.

How did Columbia go from this:

3M siteto this?

spring 2014and from this:

3M_Wetlands_Pumphouse (5)to this?

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Photos Courtesy Columbia Parks and Recreation

This is a must-read for all urban foresters and their allies, even those with no connection to urban wetlands restoration, because the collaborative aspect speaks to us all.

 

UF Must-Read: TD Bank’s Report on the Value of Toronto’s Urban Forest

 

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photo as seen on sweetandloveable.com

One of the summer’s most widely circulated urban forestry-related stories was about the TD Bank Group’s evaluation of the economic value of Toronto’s urban forest. TD Bank Group, which acts as a think tank as well as an advisory group of economists and has a full-time environmental economist on staff, is chaired by Senior Vice President and Chief Economist Craig Alexander.

In a great interview with Alexander on the Alliance for Community Trees (ACTrees) website, he said that his group found that for every dollar of maintenance, the trees are returning between $1.35 and $3.20 (a 220% return) in benefits. Alexander says, “It’s a good investment. We aren’t including things we can’t measure like the intangibles of being able to go to a park and enjoy the trees. This is a low ball number because you can’t measure everything.”

TD Bank Group Chief Economist Craig Alexander
TD Bank Group Chief Economist Craig Alexander

It’s thrilling for City of Toronto urban foresters and indeed urban foresters everywhere to get this kind of affirmation from economists from the second largest bank in Canada (eighth largest bank in the U.S.). In their capacity as a policy think tank, Alexander said his group of economists does research on the environment and that this is the first of their reports on “natural capital.” He says, “Economics measures GDP, but there is a lot that doesn’t get measured, including the value of the environment.”

In the ACTrees article, Alexander says, “The challenge we have on public policy and environmental issues is at the end of the day, you have to have a dollars and sense argument on your investment. This kind of data also really helps politicians and government officials to make decisions. Everyone is facing fiscal constraints… we need to economically appreciate what trees do. In the aggregate the numbers are really impressive.” This is something urban foresters have known for a long time, but coming from TB Bank’s Chief Economist, it will greatly add to this awareness among the populace.

You can read the full TD Bank Group report here.
You can read a great profile of Toronto’s urban forestry program here, starting on p 10 in the July/Aug 2011 issue of City Trees.

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The Nature Conservancy’s Bill Toomey: Healthy Trees, Healthy Cities

bill-toomeyWe are excited that the Nature Conservancy’s Bill Toomey will be our Conference keynote speaker at Hoffstra later this month (register here!). Bill oversees the Healthy Trees, Healthy Cities project of the Nature Conservancy. Healthy Trees, Healthy Cities is an initiative of The Nature Conservancy with programs currently running in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Tennessee.

Bill is currently the Director of Forest Health Protection working as part of the Nature Conservancy’s North American Forest Priority and the Conservancy’s Urban Conservation Strategies Initiative. Most recently, Bill served as the Executive Director of the Highstead Foundation, a conservation non-profit based in Connecticut, which advanced forest conservation work throughout New England. Prior to that he worked for The Nature Conservancy for 10 years in the Connecticut and Massachusetts Chapters where he held positions as stewardship ecologist, landscape project director, and major gift fundraiser. He has also worked for the City of San Jose, California where he managed the residential recycling and composting program. Bill holds a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Fairfield University and a master’s degree in Soil Science and Ecology from North Carolina State University. Bill is also an ISA certified Arborist and is a member of the CT Urban Forest Council.

Here’s a link to a great interview the Conservancy did with Bill about his background and the Healthy Trees, Healthy Cities initiative, and here’s an excellent video about the Nature Conservancy’s Urban Strategies:

From the Healthy Trees… site:

Healthy Trees, Healthy Cities is improving the health of America’s trees by engaging people in hands-on tree care and inspiring a new generation of environmental stewards. How do we do it?

We start with:

  • Assessing urban forest health to inform tree planting and management;
  • Training volunteers in tree stewardship and tree health monitoring;
  • Engaging youth and the public;
  • Raising awareness about the importance of trees and what people can do to keep trees healthy through education and outreach; and
  • Working with local partners to ensure the successful implementation of the program.