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NYC Senior Forester and MFI Grad Brian Widener

Brian Widener at Buttermilk Falls in New Jersey
Brian Widener at Buttermilk Falls in New Jersey

In February, 2015, NYC Senior Forester for Trees and Sidewalks Brian Widener attended the week-long Municipal Forestry Institute (MFI), held at The Oregon Garden in Silverton, Oregon.

Here we learn about Brian’s background, his work in NYC, and his experience at MFI, for which he received partial support from the NYSUFC and NYSDEC.

Can you tell us about your job background and education?
Brian Widener: Before I was a forester, I worked at a couple of interesting hotels, including the Giant Forest Lodge in Sequoia National Park (no longer in existence) and the hotels on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, then I worked a few years in dark, sometimes windowless corporate offices.

After volunteering in Prospect Park in Brooklyn for a year, I decided to go back to school and graduate with a Forestry degree from Northern Arizona University (NAU) in Flagstaff. I always tell everyone that I learned about two trees at NAU, ponderosa pine and Gambel oak. That’s it, haha! And only a few urban tree species were planted on the streets of this 7,000-foot-elevation town (Siberian elm and honeylocust, mostly). We hiked to the higher elevations of Arizona to study Douglas-fir, bristlecone pine, Colorado spruce, etc. and I learned a lot about native grasses, scrubby oaks, and cactuses at lower elevations.

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Looking Back with Pride: Our Council’s 2014 Annual Report

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Taking a step back and looking at all the work we accomplished in 2014 is a very joyful experience and also very humbling. The Council’s 2014 Annual Report is now available HERE for view and download.

This is a time to be very proud ourselves–way to go, everyone! Beyond that, this document also serves many useful purposes including:

– Portraying the Council’s mission and activities

– Educating influential decision-makers about our work on important issues

– Creating a historical account of our accomplishments and progress

– Acknowledging the work of our members, volunteers, and sponsors

RELEAF 190But we can only fulfill these useful purposes if we distribute this report to others. Doing so expands our circle of influence and galvanizes strategic relationships that help us accomplish our common mission. Do you have a Facebook page or Twitter account where you could repost it? Some types of people you may wish to share with might include:

– Professional colleagues

– Policy-makers and elected officials

– Business contacts

– Potential sponsors

– Educators

– Students

– Community members

– Family members

So, please enjoy the read and feel free to leave your feedback in the comments section.

NYSUFC ANNUAL REPORT 2014 – FINAL

Meet Our Council’s New Executive Secretary, Liana Gooding

Gooding Family
Liana Gooding with her son Ian, son Jared, and husband Mark.

Liana (pronounced “Lee Anna”) Gooding is the NYSUFC’s new Executive Secretary. Welcome, Liana! She introduces herself here.

I grew up in suburban Rochester, attended SUNY Oswego and have lived in several different areas of New York State. I now reside in the small rural village of Lima, just south of Rochester with my husband Mark and son Jared (my six-foot-tall, 16-year-old “baby.”) Our older son, Ian, is in his first year at Clarkson University. He’s doing great, while mom is still having separation anxiety.

I began my administrative career in medical office management and upon moving to the Adirondacks (where Mark was working for NYS DEC) I had the opportunity to work for the Village of Saranac Lake and served as Village Clerk. Mark and I had two young boys when he was offered a transfer to the Region 8 DEC office (where he is today), which brought us to Lima and closer to family.

I married into forestry. Mark was attending SUNY ESF when we met, and he works as a forester for DEC. He introduced me to various forestry related groups, including the New York Forest Owners Association (NYFOA), New York Tree Farm, and the NYS Urban Forestry Council. I was at home with our young boys when the office administrator opportunity came up for both NYFOA and Tree Farm. Both jobs fit my administrative skills and provided the work from home option that I have enjoyed for ten years. It’s been rewarding to support a group of engaged volunteers working toward a shared purpose. Finding out that the NYS Urban Forestry Council was looking for an Executive Secretary, I felt it would be a great fit for me and would blend well with the work I do for the other groups.

I’m looking forward to seeing a different side of forestry and meeting a whole new group of people. I hear the Council is a fun bunch of dedicated professionals. I look forward to meeting many of you at the summer conference!

I’d love to hear from you: lgooding@rochester.rr.com. I can be found most days in my home office with my furry companions. They’re kind of lazy, and one has been known to bark when I’m on the phone, but they are the best co-workers around.

Letter-Writing Advocacy: ReLeaf COUNT TREES Part II

Want your local politician to pay attention to an issue you care about? Take this tip from Omar Ahmad, the beloved former mayor of San Carlos, California: Send a monthly handwritten letter. Old-fashioned correspondence, he shows, is more effective than email, phone — or even writing a check. Listen for his four simple steps to writing a letter that works.
-from TEDTalks

Advice for letter writing advocacy was conveyed during a session with Nancy Wolf and Paul Kerzner at the March 6, 2015 NYC ReLeaf Workshop, COUNT TREES: Why Do a Tree Census?” The advocacy letter template will be useful to all New Yorkers seeking the most effective way to advocate for their urban forest. The template and its NYC-specific intro were written by NYS DEC Division of Lands and Forests Outreach Coordinator Nina Medakovich. 

City Council members are preparing the 2016 budget for New York City. With the Million Trees initiative planting its one millionth tree this summer, it’s time to ensure our city continues heading in the right direction by investing in our urban forest!

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NYC ReLeaf’s COUNT TREES Workshop, Part I

NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver gave the keynote address.
NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver gave the keynote address.

With the exception of Sumana Serchan’s reflections, this two-part post was written by NYS DEC Division of Lands and Forests Outreach Coordinator Nina Medakovich. Part I brings us workshop highlights. Part II delves into the power of letter-writing advocacy and includes an advocacy template letter written by Nina. Thank you, Nina and Sumana.   

NYC ReLeaf’s Spring workshop “COUNT TREES: Why Do a Tree Census?” was held on March 6th at Brooklyn Borough Hall to highlight the value of collecting and analyzing data on urban trees. With the NYC Parks Department preparing to undertake the decennial Street Tree Census this summer, NYC ReLeaf considered it a timely and relevant topic.

The workshop aimed to convey why collecting data on urban trees is so crucial to survival and growth of the urban forest, investigate federal research on urban forests, reflect on the success of and lessons learned by NYRP’s Tree Giveaway program, equip volunteers with tree advocacy skills, and introduce the 2015 Street Tree Census.

NYC Releaf workshop
Settling in for the workshop. Photo Courtesy Million Trees NYC

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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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