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?
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.
In 2016, NYSDEC Urban Forestry Program Coordinator Mary Kramarchyk mentored her second summer intern, Jennifer Kotary. “The goal of the internship is to expose and recruit forestry students into the world of urban forestry,” Kramarchyk says. “Jennifer’s excellent technical and communication skills helped her fit right into DEC’s program. She was thrown into and completed real work—and “extra” activities so meaningful to the success of the program—that, without her, we would not have been able to accomplish.”
Two days after my graduation (’16) from SUNY ESF’s Ranger School, I began at NYSDEC via the Research Foundation in the Urban and Community Forestry summer internship. A connection with Mary Kramarchyk at the New York Society of American Foresters Annual Meeting was the beginning to an internship opportunity to better my understanding of what urban forestry is in action. Now that this internship comes to a close, I realize that as urban forestry initiates and sustains connection between community and the environment, my internship has connected me to a critical passion of mine which includes all things trees.
People. Urban forestry has connected me to people. I am so thankful to Mary Kramarchyk, Mary Martin, and Sally Kellogg who took me under their wing and amazed me with their adaptive ability to joyfully get done a plethora of responsibilities for the state program. Via statewide ReLeaf meetings, I witnessed the individual personalities of ReLeaf committees flourishing in each New York region. Exposure to NYS DEC’s Bureau of Lands and Forests and the great group of people assisting in statewide forestry is continually inspiring. Lastly, I met an impressive slew of tree-related individuals via the summer’s ReLeaf Conference at Skidmore College.
Arborist Gary Raffel (pron. “Rough-FELL”) is a NYSUFC Board member and small business owner based in Bloomfield, south of Rochester.
What lead you to arboriculture and urban forestry? Gary Raffel: I grew up with an interest in the outdoors, including hunting and hiking, and from an early age wanted to become a forester. In high school, I did landscaping work for a friend’s start-up company and gravitated toward pruning trees and the thrill of climbing them to get a dead limb here or there. That turned into working for tree companies on summer breaks from Paul Smith’s College. Eventually, I decided to dual major at SUNY ESF in forestry and forest biology to integrate my desire to become a forester with my experience climbing and working in arboriculture.
While at ESF I took Paul Manyon’s tree pathology class and an entomology course and was hooked on the material and the desire to focus on individual trees. I worked for a summer in Pennsylvania marking timber and boundary lines for a consulting forestry company and I realized, though I loved the forest setting, I missed the thrill of climbing and focusing on the individual tree within the stand. It became clear to me that the real-world economics of timber stand management wasn’t always in accord with the textbook sustainable management practices I was so eager to implement. I also met too many foresters who had come to feel like the woods was a job site for them and they began to despise it. I wanted to keep the woods as a special place, one where I could always hike and hunt without feeling like I was on a job site. So from then on, I decided to focus my studies on arboriculture and urban forestry.
Sharon DiLorenzo is a program manager for Capital Roots, whose vision for the future of the Capital Region is “where every person has access to fresh, affordable, healthy food.” The organization is also involved in urban forestry projects and partnerships. She has served multiple terms on the NYSUFC Board and will be presenting on the work of Capital Roots as part of the “Fruits of the Urban Forest” workshop on Saturday morning of the upcoming (July 14-16) conference in Saratoga Springs.