Arborist & Author Jean Zimmerman on Her MFI Experience

Arborist and author Jean Zimmerman. Photo by Maud Reavill

Council Member and SavATree Arborist Jean Zimmerman recently attended the 2020 Municipal Forestry Institute (MFI) with partial assistance from a Council scholarship. With this MFI class, more than 750 urban forestry and affiliated professionals have completed the weeklong leadership training. Jean’s account of her experience is literary in nature because in addition to being an arborist, she is a published author.

Sugar white sands. Crashing waves. The occasional parabolic arc of a dolphin off shore. We gathered along Alabama’s famously gorgeous Gulf Coast, sixty-five pilgrims from all over the country and abroad. We had come to sharpen our leadership skills at the Municipal Forestry Institute (MFI), a long-running (since 2006) continuing education symposium that is celebrated as one of the best in the world. I remember arriving at the Gulf Shores Hilton, being unsure of whether I could fit in.

My fellow MFIers came from varied backgrounds. Some were urban foresters at municipalities of varying size, from New York City to Denton, Texas. Others hailed from not-for-profits, such as TreePhilly in Philadelphia. One participant, a champion tree-climber, represented the happiest place in the world, Disneyland. Another traveled from Sweden. There were representatives of PlanIT Geo and Davey Tree. I came to Gulf Shores from SavATree, the third largest tree care company in the United States, where I work as a commercial and consulting arborist.

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Remembering a Titan of Urban Forestry: Ed Drabek

Edwin S. (Ed) Drabek

Feb. 18, 1934 – Jan. 22, 2019

Some factual information for this post is excerpted from Mr. Drabek’s obituary, written by Dale Anderson for The Buffalo News.

Ed Drabek leaves a legacy of nearly 60 years of service to Buffalo’s urban forest and community and to our wider field of urban forestry. Drabek joined the Buffalo Parks Department Forestry Division 1962 as assistant city forester and was promoted to city forester in 1968.

In the early years, his career was consumed by managing the ravages of Dutch elm disease, removing elms and beginning to restock the Buffalo city forest with a wider variety of urban-tolerant species. It’s estimated that Drabek oversaw the removal of about 95,000 mature elms, but then supervised the planting of 75,000 trees—with sustainable biodiversity in mind. 

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All Thanks to Mary! Pictorial & Tributes to a Phenomenal State Urban Forestry Coordinator

Mary Kramarchyk at the 2014 Releaf Conference at Hofstra University.

Our longtime, beloved DEC statewide coordinator Mary Kramarchyk has moved on to a position with the Diocese of Albany. A call for tributes to Mary was put out via various media; if you sent one and don’t see it here, or would like to add yours belatedly, please write Council Editor Michelle Sutton at editor@nysufc.org.

Oh, Mary, I am so sad to lose you and your bright spirit! We owe so much to you in helping to build the urban forestry program here in NY!

In a similar vein to the experiences of other Council Board members, I came to a ReLeaf workshop in Westchester, not knowing a soul, and met you, Brenda Cagle, and Nancy Guski. You were all so much fun, and encouraged me to attend the annual conference in Canandaigua. That was ten years ago, and I have learned so much and met so many wonderful people over the years—all thanks to your outreach at that event. Thank you so much for welcoming me into the group!

And now you are off on a new adventure. The Diocese of Albany is very lucky to have you. I wish you nothing but the best in this new position. We will miss you. —Karen Emmerich 

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A Tribute to Our Friend Pat Tobin

Pat Tobin in 2014 accepting Tree City USA recognition for Fayetteville, which has been a Tree City USA for nearly 20 years, thanks in no small part to Pat’s efforts. With Pat is NYSDEC Urban Forestry Partnerships Coordinator Sally Kellogg.

Beloved Council Past President (2006-2009) and longtime Council stalwart friend Pat Tobin died unexpectedly on September 1, 2018 in her home in Fayetteville. Pat was born and raised in the Eastwood neighborhood of Syracuse, graduating from Eastwood High School and continued her education, receiving a BA from Syracuse University. She remained a lifelong SU sports fan, cheering the football team on her last evening!

Pat spent 40 years at Niagara Mohawk as an IT programmer. After her retirement, Pat became a super-volunteer, helping out with numerous causes, most especially the urban forest by way of the Council and the Fayetteville Tree Commission. Pat was also an active member of Immaculate Conception Church in Fayetteville. 

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Reflections from Newly Retired Albany City Forester Tom Pfeiffer

Tom Pfeiffer iiiI grew up in Albany. When I was a kid, Mom would point out different kinds of trees to me (she had grown up on a farm). My interest grew, always with sensory attraction: the smell of maples in the spring, the sound of wind in pine branches, the color of fall leaves, all the forms and shapes.

Growing up in a reasonably dense city gave me a different perspective on trees when I went to Forestry school at Paul Smiths College. After graduating and taking internship positions with the US Forest Service, I returned to Albany. A volunteer project with the City led me to the then-new position of Assistant Forester, where my re-education in urban forestry began.

Our department found every urban tree issue there is: plumbing, overhead wires, bad practices, poor soils, vandalism, sidewalks, structures. And we made many of the mistakes, but learned and adjusted. One of my first—and ongoing—efforts was to increase tree species diversity; tree planting along streets, in parks, and on school grounds gave me my highest satisfaction in the position. 

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The Rustic Symbolism of Victorian-Era Treestones

Intro and photos by Michelle Sutton

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What does it all mean?

The tree collections in cemeteries and memorial parks are key contributors to the beauty, diversity, and ecological services of the urban forest. Since I was a teenager, I’ve loved wandering cemeteries and memorial parks to appreciate the mature trees, beautiful open-grown specimens, and unusual species. In New York cemeteries I’ve seen glorious open-grown cucumber magnolia (Magnolia acuminata), Kentucky coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioicus), and Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum), to name a few.

Thanks to an article by Davey Resource Group Senior Consulting Urban Forester Jenny Gulick, I have another level of appreciation when I explore cemeteries and memorial parks—now I look for treestones and am thrilled when I find them. It’s like a reverential treasure hunt, as the “treasures” can tell such profound stories. In New York, I often will find one treestone in a cemetery—two or three if I am lucky.  Here are some highlights from Gulick’s fascinating piece on the history of treestones and how their symbolism can be interpreted. 

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NYC Parks Deployment to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria

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A Puerto Rican flag painted on the roots of an uprooted tree in Old San Juan. Photos Courtesy NYC Parks

In this post, NYC Parks Arborists Jessica Einhorn and Brooke Costanza answer questions about their deployment to San Juan, Puerto Rico from October 29-November 13, 2017. They were the first two NYC Parks arborists to be deployed to Puerto Rico following the devastation of Hurricane Maria, which made landfall on September 20, 2017 with sustained winds of 155 mph.

In addition to causing widespread human misery, Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on the Island’s trees. A total of eight teams of New York City employees traveled to Puerto Rico to help out; each group was assembled based on what San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz’s staff identified as a priority. Einhorn and Costanza performed forestry inspections with other NYC Parks staff and the NYC Office of Emergency Management.

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NYC Parks Arborists and story authors Brooke Costanza (left) and Jessica Einhorn (right)

Were your assessments guiding the work of arborists coming right behind you?
Jessica Einhorn and Brooke Costanza: Absolutely they were. When we first arrived, it was apparent that the local government resources were stretched very thin, so we were tasked with creating our own plan of action on the spot. We started surveying the largest parks and created reports with recommendations for necessary tree work. After speaking with local Parks staff, we sent for additional NYC Parks’ arborists, climbers and pruners to help carry out this recommended work, as there were not adequate resources and expertise on the Island. At the end of our deployment, the arborists who took over continued inspecting trees throughout the City of San Juan.

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Behind the Scenes with Arbor Day Poster Contest Winner

Sarah at Arbor Day ceremony
from left: Sarah Werner, 2017 winner of the statewide 5th grade Arbor Day poster contest; Warwick Mayor Michael Newhard; and Patricia Reinhardt, chair of the Arbor Day Committee and a member of Warwick Valley Gardeners. Photo by Denise Werner

Last spring, many students from the Warwick Valley Central School District took part in the 2017 Arbor Day Ceremony on April 28th at Stanley-Deming Park, co-hosted by the Village of Warwick and Warwick Valley Gardeners. Among them was fifth grader Sarah Werner, whose artwork on the theme of “Defend New York’s Forests” was chosen as the statewide Arbor Day poster contest winner. We talked with Sarah and her Mom, Denise, about this achievement and about their personal connection with trees.

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Sarah: When I saw the theme ‘Defend New York’s Forests’, I thought of a fantasy where the forest had a shield, like a knight protecting the forest. The forest is behind the shield, but different kinds of trees are featured in front of it. My Mom taught me how to paint trees. I’ve been into art since I was very little, where I started with finger painting. My favorite trees are the maples because of all their fall colors. Trees always calm me. They put me in a peaceful mind place.

Denise: Since Sarah was a baby, my husband and I have taken her hiking in the forest near us, Wawayanda State Park. From six months old on she was out there in a backpack with us. Also since Sarah learned to walk, she helped me water newly planted spruce trees around the property. Those experiences influenced her awareness of trees and why trees are good for the environment. 

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Up With Trees! SMA Tulsa Conference Highlights

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Up with Trees headquarters in Tulsa. Photo: upwithtrees.org

Recently, Council members such as Past President Andy Hillman, Secretary Steve Harris, Board Member James Kaechele, and myself (Blog Editor Michelle Sutton) attended the Annual Conference of the Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA). It was held November 13-14, 2017 in Tulsa, Oklahoma prior to the Partners in Community Forestry Conference on November 15-16.

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SMA conferences are open to and welcoming of anyone and everyone interested in urban forestry but tend to draw most from professional city foresters, parks superintendents, state UCF coordinators, urban forestry nonprofit staff, and the like. Many continue on to the “Partners” conference, organized by the Arbor Day Foundation, where they are joined by hundreds of community forestry professionals, volunteers, and activists.

A bus tour of Tulsa (human pop. ~ 400,000) highlighted the long and productive collaboration between the Tulsa Parks and Recreation Forestry Section and the nonprofit group Up with Trees, founded in 1976. Urban forestry in Tulsa was first formally recognized in 1992; its longtime city forester, Mike Perkins, recently retired from the City and went to work as operations manager for Up with Trees. Arborist Dave Zucconi then took the city forester position, rising from the ranks of Parks and Recreation. Tulsa benefits from the longtime positive working relationship between Perkins and Zucconi, who gave a very animated tour and are rightfully proud of their accomplishments and those of their colleagues.

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Mike Perkins (left) and Dave Zucconi (right)

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Urban Forest Ecology: Knotweed with Laura Wyeth

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Council member and horticulturist Laura Wyeth, with Japanese knotweed. Photo by Larry Decker

Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum; Latin synonym Fallopia japonica) is indisputably a major nuisance in the urban forest. NYC Parks Natural Resources Group has documented extensive research and control methods they’ve used, in partnership with the Bronx River Alliance and other entities, to combat knotweed along the Bronx River and in other natural areas in the City’s five boroughs.

Regardless of what combination of chemical and mechanical means are employed, control of Japanese knotweed is widely acknowledged to be imperfect at best. While we can and should manage its presence in our urban forests, this plant is here to stay.

Why and how is Japanese knotweed so successful at colonizing the most degraded sites? Why is it so hard to control? And what are some of the positive attributes of the plant that you might not hear much about? In this piece, Council member Laura Wyeth, a horticulturist with a particular interest in weed science, explores some of what makes Japanese knotweed unique.

Laura Wyeth:

Japanese knotweed is a plant caught up in the polarization of our times. Both its virtues and its malevolence have been inflated in the public imagination, and it is at once known as both miracle drug and botanical monster. In Canada, a nation not prone to paranoia, it has been described as “a demon weed so relentless, bloody-minded and destructive, it’s been called the terrorist of the plant kingdom.” Strong words for a creature with no teeth, claws, or toxicity to humans. Internet herbalists tout its miracle cancer-fighting properties with equal hyperbole. Yet with this plant, the quiet facts are more interesting than the hype.

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