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.
What has been your career trajectory?
AT: After I earned my BLA I found myself back in the landscape design-build world. After some time in the field again I was offered a position as an LA with my current employer, Wendel Companies, in 1998. In 2001 our firm was assisting then-Buffalo City Forester Andy Rabb with contract management and some service calls. I was tasked with inspecting trees; recording species, DBH, and condition; and recommending potential work.
In 2005 the City of Buffalo released an RFP for urban forest master plan administration. At the time most of the operations of Buffalo Parks and Recreation were being delivered by Erie County. The County forester was responsible for all of the County roads and parks as well as managing the day-to-day operations of the City of Buffalo Bureau of Forestry.
Our firm was selected for the project, which is why I say I fell into arboriculture, and more particularly, urban forestry. I had a strong horticulture background, so had the understanding of plant biology, and I had LA training, which in its basic form is systems-based. I worked with retired City Forester Ed Drabek on updating the tree inventory and developing a work order system that worked for the County.
In 2006 western New York experienced the “October Surprise” storm, which was basically two feet of heavy wet snow on full-canopy trees. Aside from the damage that resulted from the storm, it led to a vigorously renewed commitment to trees and the urban forest in this part of the State.
My first involvement with the NYSUFC was by way of the ReLeaf Conference that took place in Saratoga Springs in 2007. It wasn’t long after that that I was asked to serve as a Council Board Member.
What is cool about urban forestry in Western New York, and what is challenging?
AT: I would say the coolest thing is the interest in planting and maintaining public trees. After the October Storm the ReTreeWNY effort began, which to date has engaged thousands of volunteers and planted over 30,000 trees. The City recently modeled a CommuniTree Steward program after Onondaga County with the first training completed in 2016 and a new class of Stewards coming in for training in spring 2017. From the interactions I have had with many public officials there has been a noticeable change in attitude from trees as being a “leaf and sewer” nuisance to trees being a benefit to the community. The largest challenge is still education. While there are numerous programs across WNY, from workshops to garden shows, we are finding the general public is woefully ill-equipped to make informed decisions about trees.
What are your interests in your free time?
AT: I don’t have much free time with a two year old. A few years back my response would have been “to brew beer and build furniture.” Most of our house is filled with pieces I built over the last twenty years. When our family can get away, we go to my father-in-law’s place at Isles of Capri and try our best to do nothing at all. We enjoy our boat and we spend a fair amount of time on the Niagara River.