Council Board Member Danielle Gift with a Parrotia persica on the RIT campus. Photo by Michelle Sutton

Danielle Gift received a scholarship from the New York City/Region 2 ReLeaf Committee, of which she is an active member, to pay for ReLeaf registration and lodging. Get involved with your region’s ReLeaf Committee

Danielle Gift: 

“This year’s Annual New York ReLeaf Conference was one of my favorites to date! The Region 8 committee did a fantastic job of providing a great mix of workshops and field tours on a variety of topics, and all of the speakers were incredible engaging and knowledgeable.

At NYC Parks I’ve recently transitioned from Manager of Special Urban Forestry Projects to Tree Preservation Senior Project Manager. Although many of my special projects came with me to this new position, I now have a stronger focus on tree presentation, and this conference had something important and applicable in each session. It was exciting for me to see these workshops through a different lens—the tree preservation lens. With that in mind, there were three highlights for me: the Keynote on New York Tree Law, the picnic at Olmsted-designed Genesee Valley Park, and the Saturday Service Project, which focused on a Trees for Tribs restoration site in an area hit hard by Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). 

Monroe County Parks Superintendent of Horticulture Mark Quinn (left) and NYSDEC Forester Garrett Koplun shared how Trees for Tribs volunteers have planted diverse species to replace critical riparian canopy along Oatka Creek lost to EAB. Photo by Danielle Gift

Tree Law is a relatively new topic for me, and Laura E. Ayers Esq. managed to bring law and liability to life! Her keynote and the workshop on liability right after it really helped me understand the disputes that come up when it comes to living with and managing the trees in a large municipality. She also gave me an appreciation for the complexity of tree ownership and responsibility and showed me how the law sees trees. How she managed to do all of this while keeping an entire room engaged and even laughing was amazing and exciting.

The picnic at ReLeaf is something that everyone looks forward to and this year’s was no exception. After getting some tasty BBQ, I grabbed a Solo cup of mac n cheese (that’s right, I said a Solo cup) and joined the walking tour, which highlighted the Olmsted-designed aspects of Genesee Valley Park. It was really interesting to see how the Erie Canal (something I’ve only sung about in elementary school) bisected the park system and how Olmsted connected the parks together through the use of foot bridges.

In addition to planting, Trees for Tribs volunteers help maintain tree shelters for young trees like this sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) on Oatka Creek near Rochester. Photo by Danielle Gift

Finally, my time at the conference ended with a tour and discussion of the Trees for Tribs EAB restoration project on Oatka Creek, just south-west of Rochester. We saw firsthand how the EAB infestation affected the riparian areas along the Creek and how the community has been restoring the banks using a variety of trees and shrubs, all planted by volunteers. NYC recently confirmed its first EAB infestation (November 2017), and this trip upstate was a sobering reminder of how devastating this pest truly is. This tour gave me a lot to think about and also gave me hope that if a smaller city like Rochester can work to move past a heavy infestation, then NYC can work through their infestation, too.

The dreaded EAB galleries–here, in white oak trees removed from near Oatka Creek. Photo by Danielle Gift

Thank you so much to the Region 2 ReLeaf Committee for sponsoring me with a scholarship to attend the conference this year.  I can’t wait for next year’s conference and to see all of my NY tree friends again!”