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NYC’s Matt Stephens Goes to Washington DC for Arborist Exchange

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NYC Parks and Casey Tree staff intermingling ♦ Photo Courtesy Casey Trees

Last fall, both NYC Parks and the not-for-profit, DC-based organization Casey Trees successfully applied for an arborist exchange through the Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA). This resulted in the first public/private pairing for the program (previously, all participants were from municipalities).

The goal of the exchange is simple: to enable urban foresters to share expertise, management practices, and technology through an on-site and immersive experience. To that end, Director of Tree Planting for NYC Parks and Recreation Matt Stephens was welcomed for a few days into the Casey Trees family. Matt wrote this report originally for City Trees, the magazine of the SMA.   

During my exchange I visited the Casey Trees Farm, participated in tree planting events, and met with staff to discuss the day-to-day management and the long-term vision of the organization. I was also able to witness firsthand Casey’s innovative tree-growing practices at their farm as well as past tree plantings completed throughout Washington DC.

With everyone I talked to, rode along with, or learned from, I noticed one commonality: passion. Passion to inspire the young, to maximize tree survival, to increase canopy—but perhaps most importantly, true passion for the people and trees of Washington DC. This city is lucky to have Casey Trees, and I can attest that Casey Trees is an expert and trustworthy steward for the urban forest.

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Longtime Council Stalwart Marty Mullarkey, in His Own Words

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Marty Mullarkey: I grew up in the Bronx in an apartment house. I remember looking out the window across the street to a vacant lot where the only tree in the vicinity grew. Later, when I was 11 or 12, my friends and I found a lot further away with many trees on it, and we built a tree hut to hang out in. But mostly I was studying, working part-time jobs, and playing stickball in the streets. I do remember a day as a young man that was one of the happiest of my life, wandering through The New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. I couldn’t believe how beautiful that place was, and I think that day had a big influence on me.

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Marty with his wife Judy and one of their grandsons.

For high school and college, I first went to a seminary to become a priest. After two years of failing Latin, my spiritual advisor said, “Maybe the Good Lord has something else in mind for you.” He was right; I had realized that I really wanted to have a family life like my parents. I switched to studying engineering at community college and then City College of New York, and met my wife Judy, who was gorgeous and also serious about her math studies. Judy graduated from Fordham University with majors in mathematics and education and received her masters in special education from Long Island University and had a great career teaching special education. She was extremely supportive of my work, travels, and late meetings on environmental committees. We are now retired except for volunteer work and have new careers as Nanny and Grandpa. We have been married 50 years.

For a time I worked as a technician for a defense contractor, and then I worked my way up to lead engineer at a nuclear power plant. I was sent out on debates to talk about nuclear power; at some point I realized that I agreed with my opponents that solar and other forms of green energy made more sense on Long Island.

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Buffalo’s Cost-Share Grant Story and Advice

Measuring Diameter at Breast Height (DBH) during the in-house, grant-funded inventory.
Measuring Diameter at Breast Height (DBH) during the in-house, grant-funded inventory.

In 2011, the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy (BOPC) successfully applied for a Round 10 Urban and Community Forestry Cost-Share Grant from NYS DEC.

Among other things, the funds went toward updates to the City of Buffalo’s tree inventory, condition assessment of the existing BOPC Tree Inventory and Management Plan, and priority maintenance to trees within the Buffalo Olmsted Park System.

The original tree inventory for Buffalo was performed in 2005 and updated in 2008, but by 2011, there was a need to include the 2,100 trees planted in the prior two years and a need to update the conditions report for the 11,500 trees in the database.

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Ten Ways to Make Arbor Day a True Community Event

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Thoughts turn to Arbor Day as the NYSUFC recently awarded Quick Start Grants of up to $1000 each to 12 New York communities or non-profits that want to work in partnership with municipalities to celebrate Arbor Day 2015 and form a shade tree committee.

The recipients of the grants are Village of Fort Plain/Town of Minden, Village of Brightwaters, City of Peekskill, Town of Lorraine, City of Utica, Village of Bayville, Town of Chester, Town of Warwick, Town of Owasco, Village of Hillburn, Village of Trumansburg, Village of Kinderhook. Congratulations! We look forward to hearing about your celebrations and fledgling (sapling?) shade tree committees.

In the meantime, here are “Ten Ways to Make Arbor Day a True Community Event.” This comes from Jennifer Milbrandt, coordinator of natural resources in Strongsville, Ohio, with photos by Peggy Thompson. The ideas here are so good, they bear sharing (don’t miss #7).

Please share your most creative forms of Arbor Day celebration for a future New York-centric post; kindly send brief description and photos to takingrooteditor@gmail.com.

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Getting to Know Terry Hawkridge

Terry Hawkridge

Can you tell us about your childhood influences that foreshadowed getting interested in urban forestry?
Terry Hawkridge: I was always very comfortable in the forests of New Hampshire where I spent time growing up. I went to a forestry camp for a month where we opened up a ten-year-old stand of trees, cutting out 6-foot swaths and leaving 6 feet of growth and all the sugar maples. I worked with my father on perennial gardens, constructing two large gardens that included peonies and roses.

What did you study in college and what has been your major career?
TH: I started out in forestry at the University of New Hampshire. I switched to pre-veterinarian medicine but finally ended up with a B.S. in Business Administration. Half my credits were in the sciences. I received an Associate’s degree in Greenhouse Management a year after the B.S. degree.

I was hired out of college by Hamilton College and was the college horticulturist for three years. I moved to Boston, MA and worked in a landscape nursery for four years. There I became an ISA Certified Arborist. I was solicited to return to Hamilton College where I worked for 33 years managing the horticulture, landscape, golf course, and turf programs. I finally ended up as the Director of the Hamilton Arboretum when it was founded in 2002 and served in that role until my retirement at the end of 2013.

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A New Method for Streamlining Tree Selection in New York City

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Read on for the full story behind this biotopes flow chart (and a bigger version of the chart).

We can count on our NYC urban forestry colleagues to be constantly innovating. This article by NYC Urban Forester and NYSUFC Executive Committee Member David Moore first appeared in City Trees, the magazine of the Society of Municipal Arborists. It generated a lot of positive feedback.

In the article, he shares how the New York City Parks Department streamlined its system for making tree species selections for 25,000 street tree plantings a year. Moore says, “We hope that our system provides useful insights that can be adapted and customized to the needs of other cities undertaking street tree planting.” A municipality of any size can use this article to think strategically about their tree selection process. 

Background
The MillionTreesNYC initiative was catalyzed by research that shows on average, New York City street trees currently return $5.60 to the community for every $1 spent on management.1 In the course of fulfilling the mission of MillionTreesNYC, NYC Parks Department foresters are tasked with designing planting spaces and selecting tree species for each site, then overseeing construction and community engagement.

Two factors that affect plant selection in NYC: to guarantee biodiversity, we use over 250 different tree species, cultivars, and selections grown under contract by tree nurseries in the region. Second, the planting sites that we survey have varying environmental constraints.

Selection can be a simple task on a tree-by-tree basis, but this is not efficient when it comes to making thousands of selections per season. We needed a decision making protocol to ensure consistency and accuracy throughout the urban forestry program, while considering the reality of our foresters’ time constraints. We also wanted to optimize the net benefits of our tree plantings by systematically maximizing each planting site’s potential.

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Buffalo City Forester Ross Hassinger: Get to Know Him!

Ross and Mandy Hassinger with twin daughters Emily and Josephine at the Eternal Flame Falls in Chestnut Ridge Park, Orchard Park, NY, summer of 2014.
Ross and Mandy Hassinger with twin daughters Emily and Josephine at the Eternal Flame Falls in Chestnut Ridge Park, Orchard Park, NY, summer of 2014.

Were there childhood influences that foreshadowed getting interested in urban forestry?
Ross Hassinger: I knew at an early age that I had a passion for working outdoors. As a teenager, I would often mow lawns and do light landscape work for neighbors and relatives to earn extra money. My grandmother would comment on my attention to detail and how I seemed to really enjoy working with nature. She seemed to think it would be my calling. That stuck with me as I went through school and tried to find a meaningful career path.

What have been your educational and career trajectories? RH: After high school, I attended Madison Area Technical College in Wisconsin and obtained an associate degree in parks and recreation. After I realized what my ultimate career goals were, I enrolled in the forestry recreation program at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Early on in my coursework, I met other students majoring in urban forestry and would often help them with campus tree pruning. Along with my forestry courses, this is where I found my passion for urban forestry. I soon changed my major to urban forestry and became an active member in the Student Society of Arboriculture (SSA). Through the SSA, I attended industry conferences and had opportunities to network with industry professionals. This networking gave me a sense of what the industry had to offer and helped guide me towards working with urban trees for the rest of my career.

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NYC Urban Forester Sumana Serchan: Get to Know Her!

SumanaSumana 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.

Can you tell us about your childhood in Kathmandu?  
Sumana Serchan: My best memories of my childhood are playing with my friends in my neighborhood in the courtyard. Also, when I was in grade 5, our English teacher asked us to bring our favorite book and read it to the class every Friday. I also remember how my friends and I would race to the communal tap to collect water during water shortages. During summer we would pick guavas and persimmon from trees in my neighbor’s garden.

As the youngest child, I had the opportunity to travel with my mother when she went on village excursions with her students. During long holidays, we went to Pokhara Valley where my grandfather has a farm with fruit trees and livestock. We climbed the trees to pick fruits, fed the buffaloes, chased dragonflies, played in haystacks, and swam in a nearby river.

Sumana Serchan and family; Sumana is second from right.

Please tell us about your immigration to the U.S.
SS: I was 19 when I immigrated to the U.S. with my siblings. Our parents came to the U.S. when I was 12 and we were reunited with our parents after seven years. I aspired to be a dental hygienist when I began community college in Vermont. But that changed when I started volunteering at a local park district under the supervision of Heather Fitzgerald, lecturer at the University of Vermont’s (UVM) Environmental Program. Heather’s profound knowledge of natural history inspired me to change gears to study natural resources.

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National Urban Forest Priorities: Your Thoughts, Please!

Screenshot 2015-01-21 14.21.00The National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council (NUCFAC) is seeking input on their 2016-2026 Urban Forestry Action Plan through an online survey. This is your chance to give our national urban forest leadership your opinions about what urban forest funding and program priorities should be going forward. When you go to the survey site, you will need to do a simple sign up to create an account, then you can comment.

Not yet familiar with NUCFAC? The 1990 U.S. Farm Bill created NUCFAC to advise the Secretary of Agriculture on matters relating to the protection, planting, and care of trees and forests in our nation’s cities and communities. NUCFAC brings together U&CF professionals to strategize the health and future preservation of America’s urban forests. Working together, the Council brings that a full spectrum of views into a consistent vision that is the foundation for a practical national policy on urban forestry.

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Join us for Forestry Awareness Day on February 2

Forestry Awareness Day (FAD) 2015 is coming up on February 2 in Albany. Please join us! Participation/Registration is free for NYSUFC members.

CFRO-logoFAD is sponsored by The Council of Forest Resource Organizations (CFRO), of which our NYS Urban Forestry Council is a member. (Among the other 14 organizations are The Nature Conservancy, SUNY ESF, New York Forest Owners Association, NY Farm Bureau, and the Empire State Forest Products Association).

FAD is a chance to educate our NYS legislators about key issues in Urban Forestry, Forestry Property Taxation, Wood Energy/Biomass Energy, Improving and Protecting Forest Health, and Sustainable Woodland Management and Conservation.

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