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Kristy King and NYC Forest Restoration: Dreaming Big for the City’s Natural Areas

Kristy King on a trip to India.
Kristy King on a trip to India.

Kristy King is the Director of Forest Restoration for the Natural Resources Group of NYC Parks. Here we get to know Kristy and the work that her department does to bring degraded land back to life in the surprisingly diverse range of natural areas of New York City.

Can you tell us about your childhood influences that foreshadowed getting interested in forest restoration work? 
Kristy King: I’ve always been interested in biology and used to explore the woods and streams behind my house in Columbia, SC. I can’t say that I was on track to work in forest restoration from a young age, but I’ve always been fascinated by the outdoors and felt that nature is an important part of the human experience. When studying biology in high school, ecology fascinated me the most due to the profound interconnectedness of life and the environment. I was so blown away by the complexity of it all and knew I wanted to dig deeper.

Can you tell us about your educational and career trajectory?
King: I studied Biology (focus on botany and ecology) at the College of Charleston in South Carolina and graduated in 2003. At that point I felt unsure about my trajectory and worked for some months as a florist and a field assistant performing vegetation surveys in the cypress swamps of Francis Marion National Forest, north of Charleston.

I then scored an entry level job with NOAA/National Ocean Service as a marine biologist (basically a lab technician) studying the ecological impacts of harmful algal blooms. I did that for three years and while it was very cool, I didn’t feel personally invested in the field and didn’t want to work as a laboratory scientist for my entire career.

I started independently exploring subfields in ecology and was quite taken by urban ecology both because I personally wanted to live in a big city and because I felt excited about the potential impacts of performing science and management where so many people live!

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Participate in the Reintroduction of the American Chestnut … by Simply Planting a Few Nuts

By Allen Nichols, President of The American Chestnut Foundation, New York Chapter

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Above: Allen Nichols doing a chestnut planting demonstration with home schoolers in Plattsburgh, NY.

I became aware of the American chestnut (Castanea dentata) when my father pointed out the remains of dead trees to me when I was just a boy. I was aware of the resprouts that keep coming up and then dying back from the blight. Then, when I was a teenager I witnessed the death of all the great American elms on our farm, which gave me a vision of what must have happened when the Chestnut blight killed all the chestnuts 50+ years earlier. I think that the devastation to ash trees today by Emerald Ash Borer and ash yellows and decline is giving the next generation a glimpse of what has happened in the past. 

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SMA’s 2016 Urban Tree of the Year: Musashino Zelkova

Musashino Columnar Zelkova habit
The narrow upright habit of ‘Musashino’ zelkova lends itself to many uses. Photo Courtesy J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co.

by Michelle Sutton, Taking Root Editor

The Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA) has voted Zelkova serrata ‘Musashino’ the 2016 Urban Tree of the Year. The yearly selection must be adaptable to a variety of harsh urban growing conditions and have strong ornamental traits. It is often a species or cultivar considered underutilized by urban foresters. The SMA Urban Tree of the Year program has been running for 20 years, and recent honorees include yellowwood (2015), ‘Vanessa’ parrotia (2014), and live oak (2013). You can see the full list of past winners on the SMA website, www.urban-forestry.com.

Zelkovas are native to Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co. introduced Zelkova serrata ‘Musashino’ to the North American nursery trade in 2000. Named after a city in Tokyo (which itself is a city but also a prefecture containing multiple other cities), ‘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 has the genetic potential to reach 45 feet (14 m) in height and 15 feet (4.6 m) in width at maturity. It is hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 9.

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Top Five Blog Posts of 2015

Our Council blog was viewed more than 14,000 times in 2015! Here are the top five posts:

NYC Urban Forester Sumana Serchan

Sumana Serchan: Get to Know Her! Sumana Serchan is an urban forester with NYC Parks and Recreation. Sumana has a master’s degree in Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and a bachelor’s degree in Natural Resources/Conservation from the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources (University of Vermont). She grew up in Kathmandu City, Nepal.

 

 

 

B&B trees on truck Matthew Stephens
Photo by Matt Stephens

Transplanting and a Deeper Look at “Fall Hazards” 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.

 

 

 

 

Biotope 18: Landscape, Wireless, Tree bed > 54”A New Method for Streamlining Tree Selection in NYC  Council President and NYC Parks Senior Forester David Moore shares how the City streamlined its system for making tree species selections for 25,000 street tree plantings a year using an ingenious categorization of “biotopes.” A municipality of any size can use this article to think strategically about their tree selection process.

 

 

 

 

Ithaca UFMPIthaca’s Urban Forest Master Plan: A Template for Other Munis Looking for a template as you craft or revise your community’s urban forest master plan (UFMP)? Ithaca once again leads the way. The newly revised document includes a master plan, tree inventory data, and arboricultural guidelines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Longtime Council President Andy Hillman (l) handed the torch to David Moore at ReLeaf 2015.

A Releaf to Remember Part I in a series of pictorials about the awesome 2015 ReLeaf Conference at SUNY ESF. Close behind was the inspiring Reflections from Incoming President David Moore

 

 

Lori Looks Back on the Tour des Trees 2015

Riders from behind
Tour des Trees riders started out in Orlando and ended in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Flu-stricken Lori is among them! Photo by R. Jeanette Martin

Last fall, our esteemed Council Treasurer Lori Brockelbank participated for her third year in a row in the STIHL Tour des Trees to benefit the TREE fund. The money raised supports research toward better methods for propagation, planting and care of urban trees. The Tour also funds education programs aimed at connecting young people with the environment and with career opportunities in the green industries.

Team NY 2015
Team New York, from left: Rex Webber, Frazer Pehmoeller, Lori Brockelbank, Deanna Zoerb, Jacques Brunswick, and Louise Desjardins. Photo by R. Jeanette Martin

Lori joined riders in Florida during the week of October 25-31. Lori rode as much of it as she could, given that she came down with the flu! Read on for an account from Lori. First, some interesting stats from the 2015 Tour des Trees:

*The 2015 riders raised a total of $320,000 for the Tree Fund.
*There were six riders representing New York State.
*There were 85 riders total, nine of whom were new to the Tour.
*New York placed second among all the chapters in the amount of money raised ($30,873) (Team Ohio was the biggest fund raiser).
*The total route was approximately 575 miles.
*The 2016 tour will be October and will be hosted in the Carolinas.
*Twelve trees were planted on the tour, including three memorial trees.

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The ALB Reforestation Project on Long Island

Addie, KC & Nick (S. Alvey) 2015 72
(from left) Addie Cappello, K.C. Alvey, and Nick Bates at the Annual Fall Festival at the CCE-Nassau County East Meadow Farm

On Long Island, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Nassau County (CCE-NC) is wrapping up a successful season of planting with their Asian Longhorned Beetle Reforestation Project.

The Project is coordinated by CCE-NC Urban Forestry Educator Nicholas Bates with support from Horticulture Assistants Addie Cappello and K.C. Alvey, Horticulture Educator Vincent Drzewucki Jr., and CCE-NC Executive Director Greg Sandor. This article is written by K.C. Alvey, who also prepared a very, very cool timeline about the work the Asian Longhorned Beetle Reforestation Project has accomplished thus far.

From authors Alvey, Cappello, and Bates:
It has been an exciting fall between leading public outreach events and coordinating plantings on public and private properties across Farmingdale, NY and Amityville, NY, communities that were hard-hit by the Asian Longhorned Beetle infestation. Since its initial arrival from Asia to Brooklyn in 1996, this invasive beetle has decimated thousands of trees across Long Island, particularly maples, elms, ashes, and other known host species. This infestation has caused economic damage, in addition to environmental damage, and threatens tourism, recreation, the maple sugar industry, arboriculture, and landscaping.

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Nassau County is fortunate to have been awarded $595,000 of a major $1 million grant from the US Forest Service in May 2015 for our Asian Longhorned Beetle Reforestation Project. CCE-NC is working in partnership with the US Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the US Forest Service, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, the US Department of Agriculture, the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets, and the Town of Babylon. We aim to revitalize Long Island’s urban and community forests, starting with the quarantine zone along the border of Nassau and Suffolk Counties, where the USDA has had to remove over 10,000 trees in an effort to eradicate the beetle and prevent its spread.  

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NATIONAL GRID’S “10,000 TREES…AND GROWING” PROGRAM: CAN IT HELP YOUR UPSTATE COMMUNITY FOREST GROW?

storm damage
The massive 1998 ice storm in upstate NY left thousands in the St. Lawrence valley without power for weeks and caused widespread, catastrophic damage to community trees and utility infrastructure alike.

Who would think that the massive grey clouds that settled over upstate New York in the winter and summer of 1998 could possibly have silver linings? The 10,000 TREES program was developed in 1999 to assist upstate New York communities within the Niagara Mohawk Power Corp (NMPC) service territory that had sustained extensive street tree and urban forest losses and damages in the ice and wind storms of 1998.

10,000 TREES initially assisted 42 communities in planting more than 11,000 trees during the first three years of the program. Through proper species selection and placement (aka Right Tree, Right Place), participating communities planted trees with some of those planting costs offset through contributions from the 10,000 TREES program. One key facet of the planting was ensuring that trees were utility-line compatible.

Building upon that success and with many empty spaces still remaining within served communities, National Grid (the successor to NMPC) was pleased to continue assisting communities in their street replanting projects in the form of the 10,000 TREES … AND GROWING program. Utility-compatible, low-growing trees planted successfully under overhead electric lines that are accepted under the guidelines of the program receive a contribution reimbursement of $50/tree from National Grid.

with Betsy henry
One of NYSUFC’s founding members and head of ReTree Schenectady, Dr. Betsy Henry, is presented by National Grid’s Brian Skinner with a reimbursement check for trees planted within 10,000 Trees … and Growing program guidelines.

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The Norwich Cost-Share Grant Experience

species distribution norwich

What was the City of Norwich’s experience with its NYS DEC-sponsored Urban and Community Forestry cost-share grant? We get the scoop from Norwich Planning and Community Development Specialist Todd D. Dreyer and Morrisville State College Assistant Professor Rebecca Hargrave.

The application was prepared in 2011 by Hargrave and the funds were used in 2012 to conduct a city-wide inventory of street and park trees. (A portion of Norwich’s successful grant narrative can be seen in the second half of this post.)

Dreyer says that the project was done with the cooperation of staff support from the City of Norwich, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chenango County (for whom Hargrave worked at the time), and the Christian Neighborhood Center. The project included entering the inventory data into a GIS database to enable mapping and computer analysis of the information gathered during the inventory.

Youth crew
Headquarters Youth Conservation Corps members (left to right) Katie Rawluk, Kristen Rawluk, Ethan Russell, Ian Weaver, Pat Taylor, Linas Impolis and Conor Tarbell. Not pictured are Zac Calderon and Cheyenne Beach.

Dreyer says, “The tree inventory was done during the summer of 2012 with a team of young people employed in a local AmeriCorps program known as the Headwaters Youth Conservation Corps.” They were trained and supervised by Hargrave, who says, “The City of Norwich was mostly interested in species size, composition, and distribution; basic condition information; and identification of potential planting sites.”

Hargrave says that the Headwaters Youth Conservation Corps crew collected tree data on paper forms (using codes) and collected location data with GPS units. The data was then entered into i-Tree Streets. “At the time we did not have the budget to purchase the handheld data recorders needed to run i-Tree Streets,” Hargrave says, “but that is no longer really an issue, even just a few years later, as most phones or tablets have the ability to collect data.”

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Arborist Exchange to the Wilds and Streets of NYC

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Durable tree tags support public awareness of tree planting efforts and are integral to the system used to track watering by contractors. Photos by Marty Frye 

The Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA), with funding from the Urban Forest Foundation, sponsors municipal arborist exchanges. The purpose is to create a way for municipal arborists to exchange urban forestry expertise, management ideas, and technology through in-person contact and on-site experience. What better way to find out how other forestry practitioners operate than to spend time with each other?

In the past year, NYC’s Director of Street Tree Planting Matthew Stephens visited Casey Trees in Washington, D.C. (you can read about his experiences here) and Casey Trees Arborist for Residential Plantings Marty Frye came to NYC Parks. Here’s what Marty learned from his time in the City. [Side note: The SMA is exploring opening up the exchange to utility arborists and to nonprofit community forestry professionals.]

Marty Frye headshot
Marty Frye

Marty Frye: 

New York City Parks is exemplifying what strong, informed municipal work in the public interest should look like. I had the distinct pleasure of spending time with members of the New York City Parks Department, digging into the nuts and bolts of how this work gets done. I also had the opportunity to compare both the wild side of the “back woods” of New York with its street side counterpart. This arborist exchange was professionally exhilarating and left me craving more knowledge.

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Warwick’s Grant-Funded Arbor Day Celebration

Warwick Arbor Day poster contestants with their artwork.
Warwick Arbor Day poster contestants with their artwork.

NYSUFC Board Member Karen Emmerich serves on the Warwick Town Tree Commission. Here she shares the Town’s 2015 Arbor Day celebration and activities, supported by an Arbor Day grant of $1000 from the Council (stay tuned to Taking Root e-news for information about the next round of grants) and $500 from ACTrees. 

Contest poster winner Sarah Davis with her winning entry.
Contest poster winner Sarah Davis with her  entry.

Karen Emmerich:

In 2015, Warwick held its first-ever Arbor Day poster contest. Patti O’Connor, a 5th Grade teacher in Warwick who is also on the Town’s tree commission, coordinated the effort at the middle school. We had 15 participants, and Sarah Davis’s poster was chosen by a committee of teachers as the representative poster to forward to the State contest. We held an artists’ reception at the Town Hall at the beginning of April, and the posters were on display throughout the month. All the artists received a “Trees are Cool” button, and contest winner Sarah received a pack of tree ID playing cards.

We held an Arbor Day celebration at the Town’s new dog park, where we planted four trees: a tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica), eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis), red oak (Quercus rubra) and Princeton elm (Ulmus ‘Princeton’). Members of the town board, the DPW supervisor, the town judge, and assorted citizens all attended the ceremony on what was a clear but cold, blustery day. After the DPW supervisor read the proclamation, one of our tree commissioners, Matt Doiron, spoke about the importance of trees in our lives. Matt is a forester with NYC Parks and has many years of experience in the field of urban forestry. We’re lucky to have him!

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