Washington Square Park Eco Projects & Co-founder Georgia Silvera Seamans

Georgia Silvera Seamans (center) with the interactive Washington Square Park Eco Projects Mobile Exhibit. Photo Courtesy Street Lab

Georgia Silvera Seamans is the co-founding director of Washington Square Park Eco Projects in New York City. She is an urban forester, independent researcher, and writer. Georgia has bylines with UrbanOmnibus.netAudubon.org, and Audubon Magazine, and her research has been published in Urban Forestry & Urban Greening and the former Journal of Arboriculture. Georgia blogs about urban nature at localecologist.org. She holds degrees from Wesleyan University, the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, and UC Berkeley.  

Could you share about your NYC roots and your connection to Washington Square Park in particular?

Georgia Silvera Seamans: When my family emigrated to the U.S., the first place we landed was Washington Heights. I attended junior high and high school in NYC. I used to visit the Village as a teenager; the vintage shops on West 8th Street were fun to explore! I recall one visit to Washington Square Park during that time. The Park struck me as a dynamic and diverse place. As an adult I moved back to the City in 2009. I live a few blocks from the Park, within a 10-minute walk.

A view from within WSP to the iconic Washington Arch. The nearby crabapple trees feed many bird species in the fall, including catbirds and hermit thrushes. Photo by the author.

How did you come to urban forestry, and what have been some of your peak experiences along the way? Could you talk about your urban forestry research and writing? 

GSS: I became an urban forester because of my job as a paid community forestry intern with the Urban Resources Initiative in New Haven, Connecticut. This practical experience more than any academic training set me on the urban forestry path. I was an intern in the organization’s Community Greenspace program where I provided technical resources to seven community groups in the Newhallville neighborhoods.

The projects undertaken by the groups I worked with ranged from planting street trees on a block to converting an abandoned house lot into a bird sanctuary. I can honestly say that but for this rigorous and fun experience I would not have applied to and been offered the job as urban forester for the City of Boston.

I returned to graduate school after working for the Boston Parks and Recreation Department for a few years. At UC Berkeley, my dissertation research was focused on how and why municipal agencies and nonprofits were reframing trees as ecological agents versus the conventional aesthetic narrative. I am proud of my first authored paper based on my dissertation which was published in 2013 in Urban Forestry & Urban Greening.

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Nafisa’s Onondaga Earth Corps Chronicles: Chapter 1

Onondaga Earth Corps Crew Member Nesha waters a quaking aspen. Though it may be hotter than hot, one nice thing about working solo outdoors is the ability to get breaks in the day from mask wearing.

Nafisa Tabassum’s OEC Chronicles Begins 

Last week was one of 90+ degree days. Trees are in desperate need of water and rain gardens are in need of love. This past week, I worked on the Green Infrastructure crew led by Taj Martin and Meqdad Ali. We hit several rain gardens in Syracuse, including the garden at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo, Comfort Tyler Park, and Percy Hughes Elementary School.

Generally, urban greenspace maintenance is collecting any trash from the site and removing unwanted plants that may compete with the species of plants that were deliberately planted. Rain gardens are a depressed area in the landscape that collects rain water and allows it to soak into the ground. Planted with grasses and flowering perennials, they are a beautiful way to reduce runoff!

All of the weed plants we remove are recorded as volume of cubic yards. This information is then inputted into a report that gets sent to Onondaga County and is used to monitor the health of rain gardens all across the City of Syracuse.

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Trees Naturally Social Distance (and So Can You!): Planning Safe Tree Planting Events for the Fall

Iowa-based Trees Forever has done some socially-distanced planting events this spring, and in this webinar they share what has worked for them, what to consider, and ways to make it work. They walk through some great tips as well as the online-survey they’re using to manage volunteers signing up for shifts to plant. These guidelines are included in the Trees Forever webinar and will be a great resource for ReLeaf Committee members and partners hoping to plan some fall planting events.  —Christina McLaughlin, NYSDEC Urban & Community Partnership Coordinator 

Partnerships, Fruit Trees, and Land Restoration in the Peruvian Amazon, with James Kaechele

In his capacity as Arborist for the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation, James Kaechele demonstrated how to properly plant a limón sutil tree (Citrus aurantifolia) to a community in the Peruvian Amazon.

All Photos Courtesy James Kaechele & Fruit Tree Planting Foundation

What skills does an urban forester use when planting trees on disturbed land along an Amazon River tributary? “All of them,” says New York Tree Trust Director and Council Executive Committee Member James Kaechele. In early December, 2019, Kaechele, also a consulting arborist for the Pittsburgh-based international charity Fruit Tree Planting Foundation (FTPF), went with a team of staff and volunteers to the Loreta Region of Peru to plant 6,000 fruit trees in five Amazon River communities.

“As urban foresters, our job is equal parts plants and people,” Kaechele says. “We’re uniquely positioned to coordinate both the arboricultural and human aspects of a project like this. The land-use questions are the same; the site assessment process is the same; tree planting techniques are the same; you have to address any concerns people have—for example, the worry that some have about whether a tree will fall on their house—it’s the same skills that I use in the work I do with street trees and residents in NYC.” Furthermore, the land along the Amazon River is often severely degraded and in need of restoration, just like in the tree beds, parks, and natural areas of NYC—just degraded for different reasons.

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Callery Pear Tree Buy-Back Event: A Template from Missouri

Like so many regions in New York, nearly every corner of Missouri has been hit hard with the invasive spread of Callery pear (Pyrus calleryana spp.). Callery pears are self-sterile, but it turns out they readily cross-pollinate with other cultivars. Also, the rootstock upon which a Bradford pear is grafted will sometimes sprout, eventually yielding flowers and viable pollen.

Fortunately, Missourians are often out in front with innovative approaches to urban forestry and invasive plant control. Here’s how they reduced the number of Callery pears and increased the use of native, non-invasive trees. Special thanks to Tina Casagrand of the Missouri Invasive Plant Task Force (MoIP) for her help with this post. 

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Watertown’s Fall Tree Planting Attracts >60 Volunteers

Photo by Sam Booth

Watertown’s 2019 Annual Fall Volunteer Tree Planting Project attracted more than 60 volunteers (many from Tree Watertown) to plant 28 bare root trees. The volunteer tree planting project was paid for in part by a $3000 grant from the Northern New York Community Foundation, which paid for the purchase of trees and planting supplies.

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ReLeaf 2019 in Pictures: Part II

Young people shone extra bright at the 2019 ReLeaf Conference, injecting energy and enthusiasm into the gathering.

After Onondaga Earth Corps (OEC) Director Greg Michel presented about the OEC mission and programming, OEC youth spoke about their experiences. Pictured here, Onondaga Earth Corps Crew Leader Tajuddin (Taj) shared from the heart about his connection to nature and concerns for the environment.
Young Adult Crew Member Jahkella is new to Onondaga Earth Corps and spoke about what she hopes to learn this season.

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ReLeaf 2019 in Pictures: Part I

Thank you, NYSDEC staff and Region 3 ReLeaf volunteers, for your hard work putting together a superb ReLeaf Conference.

Recent SUNY ESF grads Amandy Cruty (left) and Nafisa Tabassum are working as urban forestry technicians this summer with Syracuse City Arborist Steve Harris. They attended ReLeaf 2019 in the Hudson Valley, at Mount Saint Mary College.
Council Executive Secretary Liana Gooding (far right) addresses the Council Board just before the start of the conference. On average, 34 members serve on the Board and come from all nine DEC Regions of New York State.
SUNY ESF alum Lew Cutler came from Syracuse and retired doctor Kathy Gaffney came from Long Island to attend ReLeaf 2019. The conference theme was “Urban Forestry in a Rapidly Changing World,” referring in large part to the intersections of urban forestry and climate change.
Gloria Van Duyne is the NYSDEC Urban and Community Forestry Program Coordinator and facilitated and presented at ReLeaf 2019. She and her team worked with Region 3 volunteers to put on the conference.

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Report on Forested Natural Areas in American Cities

In March 2019, the Natural Areas Conservancy, the Trust for Public Land, and Yale School for Forestry and Environmental Studies released “Untapped Common Ground: The Care of Forested Natural Areas in American Cities.” This report is based on a survey of 125 organizations in 110 cities and how they manage their forests.

There’s a lot more nature in cities than people think! Urban natural areas represent 1.7 million acres but often don’t receive the investment, recognition, or care they deserve.

Read the full report.

Urban forested natural areas can be a tool to achieve cities’ resiliency, climate change, and public health goals. More Americans are moving into cities, and for many, these places represent their best access to nature. The time to invest in urban nature is now.

What’s Next?

The Natural Areas Conservancy and its partners will convene representatives from a select number of cities from across the country for workshops in fall 2019. Next year, they’ll publish case studies on how cities manage their forest natural areas. Check this page for updates on the project.

What are Urban Forested Natural Areas?

The term “urban forest” refers to all trees within a city including street trees, landscaped trees, private property, and forested natural areas. Forested natural areas are distinct from street and park trees in their size, biodiversity, and how they’re managed. They are important native habitats, and are the “woods” in cities.

 

Watertown’s Urban Arboretum Gets New Name, Signage, and Interpretation

Mike DeMarco took these ethereal photos while checking on young trees after work; one of them appeared on the cover (below) of City Trees, the magazine of the Society of Municipal Arborists.

Michael J. (Mike) DeMarco is a City of Watertown Planner through the Office of Planning & Community Development. Mike is also a Council Board Member, an ISA Certified Arborist, and a 2017 Municipal Forestry Institute (MFI) graduate. These stunning winter scenes from his Instagram page prompted us to ask him about Watertown’s Washington Street Arboretum, soon to be renamed the Downtown Arboretum.

Mike DeMarco:
The pictures were taken in front of the Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library, along Washington Street within the City’s Downtown Arboretum. In the foreground of these two night-time photos are ‘Glenleven’ littleleaf lindens (Tilia cordata), a sugar maple (Acer saccharum), a ‘Summit’ green ash (Fraxinus pensylvanica), a ‘Red Sunset’ red maple (A. rubrum ‘Red Sunset’) and a saucer magnolia (Magnoliasoulangeana). In the background of the pics are some of the more unique and historic trees found within the arboretum (read on!)  

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