New CommuniTREE Stewards Program Launches in Erie County

Photo by Paul Maurer for first post
Sister Johnice of St. Adalbert’s Response to Love Center in Buffalo joined the community around the Broadway Fillmore area to help plant trees. Here, a priest from St. Adalbert’s blesses the new plantings. Photo by Paul Maurer

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 Over the last ten years, the thousands of trees lost in the October 2006 storm have been replaced by Re-Tree’s volunteers, the City of Buffalo, and the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy.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.

The Stewards will be instructed in five different areas: tree biology, identification, maintenance, planting and establishment, and pruning. The first class is scheduled for March 8th at Parkside Lodge in Delaware Park and will cover biology. We on the CTS planning committee reached out to experts in the community to help teach the different topics, and by having local presenters we were able to keep our costs to a minimum.

The first group of Stewards are approximately 20 individuals, many of whom helped plant the trees they will care for in the near future. Their first opportunity to share their new knowledge will be to participate in the spring tree planting in the City of Buffalo; other projects will be coordinated throughout the year. We will encourage the Stewards to organize block club projects in their own neighborhoods.

As with any new project, we on the CTS committee are full of dreams, hopes, and a vision of the end result. But as many of us know, sometimes we have to experience some bumps along the way. The committee is made up of individuals that have worked with volunteers in the past in a variety of capacities. With our combined knowledge and experience and that of our volunteers and allies, we see CTS extending to other WNY communities in the years to come.

As with any project, the key to success is having the right tools. Through the generosity of the Buffalo Green Fund, we are able to provide the Stewards professional tools at no cost to them.  The CTS program is working with the University Heights Tool Library to house the tools and to monitor the use of them. The Stewards will be welcome to borrow the tools during any of their approved projects.

Collaboration is powering this new program. “We’re very excited that our partners are launching this essential volunteer training program for our residents to take care of Buffalo’s wonderful tree canopy,” says City of Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown. “I am looking forward to watching these new Stewards take to the streets so our city can literally grow our reputation as a ‘City of Trees!’”

In the next blog post, CommuniTREE volunteer Gregory Badger will share how CTS is using social media for communication among the Stewards and to organize projects. 

Lori's boys doing tree planting
Unofficial (but no less enthusiastic) Tree Stewards: the author’s boys, Matthew (left) and Johnathon. Photo by Lori Brockelbank

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