Landscape architect and longtime Council Board Member Art Traver works for Wendel Companies out of their Buffalo office.
Were there childhood influences foreshadowing your career? Art Traver: I think I first noticed the “environment” when I was in Boy Scouts. Our troop had their own camp in Wyoming County. My interest really kicked in when our family took over the camp property in the 80s. As we started to manage the property, I began to notice the stands of hardwoods, softwoods, and evergreens.
What has been your educational trajectory leading to arboriculture? AT: I would say I fell into arboriculture. I worked at local nurseries and garden centers growing up. When I started college at Alfred State, I studied architecture and then civil engineering but at the time, neither of these seemed appealing enough to pursue. I took some time away from school and worked for myself in the landscape design-build world. I found my way to Niagara County Community College and received a certificate for horticulture. Getting back into school got the learning bug going, so I found myself back at Alfred State, this time in the horticulture/landscape development program. After receiving my associate’s degree from Alfred, I enrolled at SUNY-ESF for landscape architecture and received my BLA.
Council Board Member Mike DeMarco attended the 2017 Municipal Forestry Institute (MFI) on scholarship from the Council and NYSDEC. MFI is an immersive, weeklong leadership training for urban forestry professionals. Here, we learn about DeMarco’s takeaways from MFI, his current position, and his work and educational background.
DeMarco says, “I would like to give a big shout out and thank you to the New York State Urban Forestry Council and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Without the support and positive push from members of these organizations, I would not have been able to take part in MFI 2017.”
Mike DeMarco: Prior to any thought of a career in urban forestry, I spent most of my early and mid-20’s following an obsession with creating music and working as a master control operator at WWNY- TV7, a local news station in my hometown of Watertown, NY. After a few years of work in TV, I felt that something was missing in my life—that is, until 2008 when I found Tree Watertown (Watertown’s Street Tree Advisory Board). I began attending meetings and quickly discovered my love for the urban forest.
Before I knew it, I was being mentored by two individuals that have since played a huge part in my journey. They encouraged me to pursue higher education and in the fall of 2012, I graduated from SUNY-ESF with a BS in Natural Resource Management and a minor in Urban Forestry.
Can you tell us about your childhood influences that foreshadowed getting interested in conservation, trees, and urban forestry? Brenda Cagle: Growing up in West Virginia in the Ohio Valley surrounded by those beautiful hills must have been the beginning, for I can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel connected to trees, hills, or nature in general. It’s kind of a spiritual thing like watching a fire burn or looking at the ocean. Anyone who grows up there learns this first line to the state song: “Oh the West Virginia Hills, how majestic and how grand.” (Go Mountaineers!!)
When and how did you first get involved with NYSUFC? In what ways have you participated, and what has your involvement meant to you? BC: I first joined NYSUFC in 2003 and became a board member in 2006 probably at Mary’s urging—don’t we all? I co-chaired the Region 3 ReLeaf Committee for several years with our regional forester, Lou Sebesta. It has definitely been a two-way street participating as a volunteer. I have been able to share our experiences in Red Hook with other communities as well learn from all the other members, professional and volunteer alike. Of course, I believe that Region 3* rocks! Friendly regional competition only brings us together. *[Region 3 is Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, and Westchester counties.]
Dr. Ed Gilman is a popular presenter among NY arborists and members of our state’s U&CF community, giving talks based on his decades of applied research at the University of Florida (UFL) and countless field observations and conversations with arborists. Gilman retired from UFL in July but— happily for our industry—he is going to continue doing education in the field, especially with commercial arborists around proper pruning techniques. The resources he created on UFL’s website for pruning and all things related to trees and other landscape plants are phenomenal—more about those later.
How is the transition to semi-retirement going? Ed Gilman: Retirement allowed me to step back and take a break from writing; after 120 scientific publications and 35 years of tearing trees apart, I felt it was someone else’s turn. I’ll have more time now to do education in the field with commercial arborists—sharing the practical fruits of my research and that of my colleagues, which I really enjoy. I stay involved with ISA Florida and with the ANSI Pruning Standards committee. It’s nice to remain plugged in and relevant. What would be particularly gratifying is if I could get more people doing what I’m doing in terms of the education of commercial arborists. Stay tuned for more on that.
Please tell us about childhood influences that may have foreshadowed your career. Shawn Spencer: I was born in upstate New York but grew up in the Tidewater region of Virginia. Our neighborhood had lots of trees in it and backed up to fallow farmland that was being overrun with pioneer trees. My parents were big into landscaping, so we maintained many different trees on our yard. I climbed in them, raked the leaves and needles, and helped prune them. Mom was a nurse and Dad an electrical engineer; neither sat behind a desk for work, and I knew I didn’t want to, either. I started taking all the science and biology classes I could take in junior and senior high school. I was also very active with my Cub Scout Pack and Boy Scout Troop, earning nearly all of the Natural Resource-based merit badges and doing all sorts of environmental/conservation service projects. I was good with a double bit axe and could start a fire in a Virginia rainstorm but was equally good with a shovel to plant more trees and shrubs.
Can you tell us about childhood influences that foreshadowed getting interested in forestry and urban forestry? Eric Greenfield: I grew up in Delhi, New York in the western Catskills. Delhi is small community surrounded by agriculture and forests and is home to one of the SUNY campuses.
Growing up, my interaction with nature was primarily through family camping and Boy Scouts (Troop 33). My father was a professor at SUNY Delhi, so our summers were filled with family camping trips, mostly throughout upstate New York. Unlike the typical Boy Scout troop meetings, our troop met twice a month over weekends at the troop leader’s camp in the woods. Most of my “woods” skills—like tree ID, wildlife tracking, survival skills, and ecological awareness—were developed there. In relation to urban forestry, some of my most vivid memories are of the large American elms in Delhi and the community mourning their loss when they were removed because of Dutch elm disease.
My dad was very active in our church and in community service. Participating in activities with him really helped to build my appreciation for service to neighbor, nature stewardship, and spirituality in nature. I was fortunate to be selected to participate in the American Legion Boy’s State as a teenager, and that experience helped shape my interest in the positive role of government.
I like to think that forestry (and especially urban forestry) augmented my focus on public service. The transition was natural as my appreciation of the working landscape in the Catskills grew.
Tim is semi-retired and a NYSUFC Board member. He works part-time as an adjunct forestry professor at Paul Smith’s College and consulting forester and is co-chair of the Lake Placid/North Elba Tree Board.
What led you into arboriculture and urban forestry? Tim Chick: I was raised in northern New Jersey but attended and eventually worked at a wilderness boys’ camp in the southern Adirondacks from age 10 until I finished college. I fell in love with the North Country and by age 14 I knew I’d be a forester. I went to Michigan Tech in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for a forest management degree.
After graduation in 1963, I moved to Detroit to take care of family obligations and was fortunate to find a forestry supervisor’s job with the City of Detroit. Up until that time I didn’t even know cities had foresters! It was quite a shock to go from cruising timber in the woods to inspecting trees along busy city streets. Detroit had an enormous street and park tree population and 17 professional foresters to manage their care. I received excellent technical mentoring from the forestry staff and patient training from the work crew foremen. I was then placed in charge of tree care for a quarter of the city. Talk about having to learn quickly! While I still had fantasies of returning to woods forestry, I was hooked by the challenges of urban work.
So … to the surprise of many (including myself), I really did finally retire from National Grid at the end of October. After 45 years of enjoying the care of trees, service to innumerable individuals, mutual and professional associations with many industry friends, and decades of sharing knowledge and expertise whenever and wherever needed, it was time to hang up the hard hat and relish the thought of no-more-sawdust-in-my-shorts-at-the- end-of-the-work-day.
Those who know me well know that I’m a bit of a workaholic (OK, maybe a lot) and could never see retirement as a word that would ever flow from my lips … but it has! I had thought maybe I could help keep the good ship “Social Security” afloat, but also thought, maybe it’s time to get my share out before the sump pumps fail. So … what advice can I pass on to those still not close to that goal post?
Never be afraid to look back at the past; that’s (supposedly!) how we learn from our mistakes. How many mass failures of trees in our urban environment did it take before we finally subscribed to diversity in species selections when planting our streets? Yes, monocultures provide simplicity in appearances and management … until an invasive pest comes to visit.
Some blog posts resonate long past their original publication date date. Transplanting and a Deeper Look at “Fall Hazards” was one of the top five posts in 2015 and was the second most viewed post in 2016. Former NYC Director of Street Tree Planting Matt Stephens and Taking Root Editor Michelle Sutton coauthored this story questioning commonly held beliefs about “fall hazards,” mostly as it applies to B&B trees, but they also discuss the interaction of the fall season with other production methods, like bare root. Nina Bassuk helped craft the section called “The Five Branches of Transplanting Success,” which should be of interest to anyone planting trees.
Kristy King and NYC Forest Restoration: Dreaming Big for the City’s Natural Areas Many readers wanted to learn about the work of the NYC Natural Resources Group, which manages 5,000 acres of forested natural areas across the five boroughs of NYC, and about Director of Forest Restoration Kristy King. Her dream for NYC: “… that all forested areas are dominated by native species and that invasive species have been managed to the point that natural forest regeneration is occurring and that the public holistically values the natural resources in their area.”
NYSDEC Urban Forestry Intern Jennifer Kotary: Get to Know Her! Many blog readers were keen to know about this dynamic up-and-comer. “My internship research involved in-depth exploration of what communities are doing to protect and build green infrastructure across the state. Via Mary’s [Kramarchyk] assigned projects, I was able to produce tangible evidence that there is quite the statewide collective will to plant and nurture an expanding canopy as well as many career and volunteer opportunities to do so.”
SMA’s 2016 Urban Tree of the Year: Musashino Zelkova generated a lot of buzz. ‘Musashino’ has been a successful and popular street tree for many more years in Japan, proving itself useful as a narrow, upright form of zelkova. It can tolerate drought and heat and is pH adaptable and pollution tolerant. See a list of all the past SMA Urban Trees of the Year here.
Gary Raffel: Get to Know Him! Gary has served the Council in a variety of capacities, including as a board member. “I started Dynamic Tree Systems in 2002, offering general tree care service as well as Plant Health Care and Integrated Pest Management programs. I later wanted to find a niche in the industry and purchased a Tree Radar Unit at a time when there were only three of us in the U.S. and eleven people in the world using the equipment. A few years later I became the company’s international trainer, such that when a new unit was sold I would fly to the particular client and spend a week training them on their new equipment (I still do that, in addition to Dynamic Tree Systems).”
The Council is tremendously pleased that three utility arborists have joined the Board: Orange and Rockland Utilities Manager of Vegetation Management Mark Beamish, NYSEG Lead Analyst Vegetation Manager Jeff Bell, and PSEG Long Island Forestry Supervisor Larry Ferrandiz.
Council Vice President and National Grid Senior Arborist Brian Skinner has, for more than two decades, provided a pivotal liaison role between the NYSUFC and the utility arboriculture world. He and fellow Council stalwart Marty Mullarkey helped the Council–and New York at large–see that utilities and communities can work together to build the urban forest while maintaining safe and efficient power delivery.
Skinner says, “While National Grid has been a big part of the Board for the past 20 years, it’s a great time and opportunity to have such wide representation for our other statewide electric and/or gas providers representing such diverse parts of the state. Their participation on the Council will demonstrate that utilities and communities exist in a partnership that can greatly benefit both. Hopefully, the knowledge that National Grid has shared with those on the Council will continue to grow that much more with these new partners on board.”
Skinner posed three questions to his fellow utility arborists: What do you bring to the Council Board? How can utilities help shape the thought processes behind community tree plantings? and, What programs or opportunities does your utility offer to promote “Right Tree, Right Place” plantings?