WNY CommuniTREE Stewardship Program Completes Inaugural Training

Inaugural group of WNY CommuniTREE Stewards in spring of 2016. Photo by John Choczynski
Inaugural group of WNY CommuniTREE Stewards in spring of 2016. Photo by John Choczynski

By Lori Brockelbank, NYSUFC Treasurer and Certified Arborist/Municipal Specialist, Wendel Companies

The first-ever Western NY CommuniTREE Stewardship Program instruction has come to a close for most of the participants, but the learning and experience continues. You can read more about the program’s mission and partners on this earlier blog post. Out of the 20 people that initially signed up for the course, 13 completed the classroom requirements.

At the conclusion of the classroom sessions, I will admit I had my doubts about whether the students had truly received enough training to go out on their own. I know personally I learn more when I get my hands dirty and I am in the field applying the classroom instruction. A few of the students expressed the same concerns; for this reason each student is required to volunteer 10 hours of supervised field time doing tree planting and/or small tree pruning in a variety of places throughout the City of Buffalo. This field work is a great chance for students to get further coaching and ask questions.

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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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